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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Changes in soil chemical properties and their spatial distribution after logging and conversion to oil palm plantation in Sabah (Borneo)

Flynn, Trevan; Tuma, Jiri; Fayle, Tom M.; Vesela, Hana; Frouz, Jan


Conversion of primary forest into oil palm plantations is common in tropical countries, affecting soil properties, ecosystem services and land-use management. However, little is known about the short-range spatial soil distribution that is important for soil scientists, ecologists, entomologists, mycologists or microbiologists. In this study, seven soil properties (pH, EC (mu S/m), P (mg/kg), NO3- (mg/kg), N%, C% and C:N) were measured to quantify the spatial autocorrelation across primary forest, selectively logged forest and oil palm plantation in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Local variograms were calculated (range similar to 5 m) to determine the short-range variation, and a decision tree as well as principal component analysis were implemented to determine if the overall (global) mean differed between land uses. As hypothesised, oil palm soils deviated the most from primary forest soils, which had more fluctuating variograms and in general, a shorter range. Oil palm plantations also showed a difference in the global mean except for electrical conductivity. Selectively logged forests also differed in their short-range spatial structure; however, the global mean and variance remained similar to primary forest soil with the exception of labile phosphorus and nitrate. These results were attributed to initial plantation development, removal of topsoil, fertiliser application and topography.


Borneo; land-use change; logging; oil palm; SAFE project; soil properties; spatial autocorrelation

Published in

Journal of Tropical Ecology
2023, Volume: 39, article number: e36

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science
    Soil Science
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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