Thursday, September 1, 2016

Tropical soils: some important aspects of these less understood soils

Tropical regions occur between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The tropics include approximately 40% of the land surface and is the largest ecozone of the earth. According to Köppen (1931), the tropics are characterized by an annual mean air temperature above 18°C through­out the whole year. The largest climatic variation is introduced by the variability of precipita­tion, reaching from nearly 0 mm in the Saharan and Atacama Desert to 11,700 mm on Mt. Waialeala in Hawaii (Eswaran et al., 1992).

An Afisol (Luvisol) soil derived from mudstone in Eastern Samar, Philippines
According to Uehara and Gillman  (1981), "tropical soils" is a common name used to identify any soil that occurs in the tropics. They noted that like most common names, the term lacks precision, but it is more readily understood by a larger audience than are the scientific names. In contrast, Sanchez (1976) argued against the use of the term "tropical soils" since it does not accurately reflect the soils in the tropics. 

Selected properties of the major tropical soils (Jahn and Asio, 2006)
The name tropical soils is now globally accepted but these soils have remained poorly understood until now. The following are some important aspects about tropical soils (Jahn and Asio , 2006):

  1. The tropics,  the world’s largest ecological zone, have very high potential for plant growth but with soil limitations in vast areas.
  2. About one-third of the soils of the world are tropical soils. The most widespread are Ferralsols, Acrisols, Luvisols, Cambisols and Arenosols.
  1. The large proportion of Cambisols (Inceptisols) and Luvisols (Alfisols) in Southeast Asia re­flects clearly the younger age of land surfaces and therefore the short duration of weathering processes.
  1. Some soils occur almost exclu­sively within the tropics. About 90% of the Ferralsols (Oxisols), 80% of the Nitisols (Oxisols/Ultisols), and 60% of the Acrisols (Ultisols) are situated in tropical regions.
  2. The major soil limitations or soil constraints  are  low cation exchange capacity, low base saturation (low pH, high Al-saturation) and high P retention. They are most widespread in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia (in decreasing order based on area).
  3. Physical constraints like high groundwater table, air deficiency and low soil depth are of lesser significance but govern special requirements for soil management in specific landscapes.
  4. Due to severe chemical limitations, proper management of nutrients is the main challenge for effective land use systems in the tropics.
  5. Internal and external fluxes of nutrients are different among soil types and different among tropical landscapes. These have to be considered in ecological land use systems.
  6. To conserve the stock of organic matter in tropical soils (and to increase it in degraded soils), biomass productivity will be a key point for ecological land use systems.
  7. To enable policy-makers as well as land users to establish sustainable and ecological land use systems in the tropics, more precise soil maps and soil information are needed.
Eswaran H., J. Kimble, T. Cook & F.H. Beinroth. 1992. Soil diversity in the tropics: Implications for agricultural development. In: Myths and Science of Soils in the Tropics. SSSA Special Publ. No. 29.
Jahn R. and V.B. Asio. 2006. Climate, geology and soils of the tropics with special reference to Southeast Asia and Leyte (Philippines). In: Proc. 11th International Seminar-Workshop on Tropical Ecology, 21-25 Aug 2006, VSU, Baybay City, Leyte, pp: 23-42.
Köppen W. 1931. Grundriss der Klimakunde. W. de Gruyter & Co., Berlin
Sanchez, P.A. 1976. Properties and Management of Soils in the Tropics. Wiley, New York
Uehara G. and G. Gillman. 1981. The Mineralogy, Chemistry, and Physics of Tropical Soils with Variable Charge Clays. Westview  Press, Boulder Colorado.


Anonymous said...

What an important information! Nice article sir vic...

Victor B. Asio said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and for leaving a comment.