Linking above and belowground carbon sequestration, soil organic matter properties, and soil health in Brazilian Atlantic Forest restoration

Wanderlei Bieluczyk*, Fernanda Ometto Asselta, Deisi Navroski, Júlia Brandão Gontijo, Andressa Monteiro Venturini, Lucas William Mendes, Carla Penha Simon, Plínio Barbosa de Camargo, Amanda Maria Tadini, Ladislau Martin-Neto, José Albertino Bendassolli, Ricardo Ribeiro Rodrigues, Wim H. van der Putten, Siu Mui Tsai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Forest restoration mitigates climate change by removing CO2 and storing C in terrestrial ecosystems. However, incomplete information on C storage in restored tropical forests often fails to capture the ecosystem's holistic C dynamics. This study provides an integrated assessment of C storage in above to belowground subsystems, its consequences for greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes, and the quantity, quality, and origin of soil organic matter (SOM) in restored Atlantic forests in Brazil. Relations between SOM properties and soil health indicators were also explored. We examined two restorations using tree planting (‘active restoration’): an 8-year-old forest with green manure and native trees planted in two rounds, and a 15-year-old forest with native-planted trees in one round without green manure. Restorations were compared to reformed pasture and primary forest sites. We measured C storage in soil layers (0–10, 10–20, and 20–30 cm), litter, and plants. GHG emissions were assessed using CH4 and CO2 fluxes. SOM quantity was evaluated using C and N, quality using humification index (HLIFS), and origin using δ13C and δ15N. Nine soil health indicators were interrelated with SOM attributes. The primary forest presented the highest C stocks (107.7 Mg C ha−1), followed by 15- and 8-year-old restorations and pasture with 69.8, 55.5, and 41.8 Mg C ha−1, respectively. Soil C stocks from restorations and pasture were 20% lower than primary forest. However, 8- and 15-year-old restorations stored 12.3 and 28.3 Mg ha−1 more aboveground C than pasture. The younger forest had δ13C and δ15N values of 2.1 and 1.7‰, respectively, lower than the 15-year-old forest, indicating more C derived from C3 plants and biological N fixation. Both restorations and pasture had at least 34% higher HLIFS in deeper soil layers (10–30 cm) than primary forest, indicating a lack of labile SOM. Native and 15-year-old forests exhibited higher soil methane influx (141.1 and 61.9 μg m−2 h−1). Forests outperformed pasture in most soil health indicators, with 69% of their variance explained by SOM properties. However, SOM quantity and quality regeneration in both restorations approached the pristine forest state only in the top 10 cm layer, while deeper soil retained agricultural degradation legacies. In conclusion, active restoration of the Atlantic Forest is a superior approach compared to pasture reform for GHG mitigation. Nonetheless, the development of restoration techniques to facilitate labile C input into deeper soil layers (>10 cm) is needed to further improve soil multifunctionality and long-term C storage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118573
Pages (from-to)118573
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2023


  • Carbon sequestration
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Greenhouse gas
  • Soil health
  • SOM humification index
  • δC
  • Trees
  • Carbon Dioxide/analysis
  • Manure
  • Forests
  • Greenhouse Gases
  • Carbon Sequestration
  • Ecosystem
  • Carbon/analysis
  • Soil
  • Brazil


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