Collembola communities and soil conditions in forest plantations established in an intensively managed agricultural area.
The challenges of a changing climate have directed greater attention to afforestation, but the effects of afforestation on soil fertility and soil biota have not been fully clarified. To explore changes in the soil conditions in two 20-year-old forest plantations established in formerly intensively fertilized plots of agricultural land, we focused on the current developmental state of the sites that received the most fertilizer and evaluated soil properties and Collembola (springtails) communities. Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) that had been planted in the afforestation sites were assessed for differences between plantations of native and invasive species. Five adjacent reference associations, including forests and open habitats, were also analyzed and compared. Results showed that the soils in the two afforested sites were similar in their properties and Collembola communities to those of the control cultivated forests, but differed from each other in pH, calcium, phosphorus, and ammonium content. The available potassium and phosphorus contents in the soil of the sessile oak plantation were still high, while the soil organic matter content was adequate (SOM > 2.0%) in both plantations. Species richness of Collembola ranged from 18 in the cultivated arable land to 43 in the relict forest. Only a few species typical for forests (e.g., Neanura muscorum, Isotomiella minor, Entomobrya muscorum) were detected in the young plantations, while species characteristic of open habitats (e.g., Protaphorura campata, Lepidocyrtus cyaneus) occurred as well. Although more individuals and species of Collembola were present in the soil of young plantations than in arable fields, their community diversities were significantly lower compared to the control forest stands. Collembola community diversity differed significantly also between the two plantation types (with native and non-native tree species). Mean abundance in the afforested sites was about 2.5 times higher than in the cultivated arable land, yet far lower than the mean abundance in the control forests.