Organic matter in volcanic ash soils under forest and páramo along an Ecuadorian altitudinal transect

Klaas G J Nierop*, Femke H. Tonneijck, Boris Jansen, Jacobus M. Verstraten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The volcanic ash soils along an altitudinal transect in Guandera Biological Station in northern Ecuador have been developed under varying vegetation around the upper forest line. Generally, the soils currently covered by forest are composed of Fulvic Andosols (melanic index >1.7) while those under páramo (tropical alpine grasslands) have developed into Melanic Andosols. This vegetation effect on soil formation is believed to be associated with differences in organic matter composition. In this study, we examined whether Fulvic Andosols differed from Melanic Andosols in organic matter composition. Using analytical pyrolysis techniques, we found hardly any differences in the organic matter characteristics related to vegetation cover, not even between soils that supposedly have been covered by forest and páramo for millennia. Small differences were found within the lipid compounds, while the polysaccharides and lignin were virtually absent from the (deeper) mineral soil horizons. The low abundance of polysaccharides in soils that have undergone severe organic matter decomposition is not unusual for most soils, but is uncommon in other Andosols studied with the same pyrolysis techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1127
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


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