Vertical distribution, nutrient concentration and seasonal changes of fine root mass in a semi-deciduous tropical dry forest and in two adjacent pastures in the Western Llanos of Venezuela

Ana Francisca González-Pedraza, Nelda Dezzeo


With the objective to contribute to a better understanding of ecological consequences of deforestation on the below-ground system in the Western Llanos of Venezuela, we evaluated the vertical distribution, nutrient concentration and seasonal changes of total fine root mass (FRM) (<2 mm diameter) in a semi-deciduous tropical dry forest and in 2 adjacent pastures of Cynodon nlemfuensis: a young pasture (YP, 5 years old) and an old pasture (OP, 18 years old) in the Obispo municipality, Barinas State. This evaluation included measurements at the end of the rainy season, during the dry season and during the subsequent early rainy season in 2005/2006. Highest FRM was recorded during the dry season, which probably indicates a plant water-stress response mechanism. The highest proportion (63‒88%) of FRM was concentrated in the 10–20 cm soil layer at all studied sites, probably due to a higher nutrient and moisture content at that depth. Non-significant differences (P>0.05) were observed in the total concentrations of organic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium in the FRM in soils supporting forest, OP and YP at the evaluated depths. Non-significant changes in the total FRM and nutrient concentrations were observed between the sampling periods and the 3 study sites. YP soils showed a slight increase in FRM that could be associated with the root growth of secondary vegetation, which is considered a weed and is periodically removed. Our results suggest that the land use change from tropical forest to pastures has not significantly affected the mass of fine roots and their carbon and nutrient concentrations. Further studies are needed to determine if these findings apply to other ecosystems.

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