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Do Anthropogenic Dark Earths Occur in the Interior of Borneo? Some Initial Observations from East Kalimantan

Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, P.O. Box 44, Kabale, Uganda
School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, P.O. Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), P.O. Box 0113 BOCBD, Bogor 16000, Indonesia
Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia, 255 Baldwin Hall, Athens, GA 30602, USA
Department of Soil Quality, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, Wageningen NL-6700 AA, The Netherlands
Fauna & Flora International—Indonesia Program, Komplek Laboratorium Pusat UNAS, JL. Harsono RM No 1 Ragunan, Jakarta Selatan 12550, Indonesia
Centre for BioCultural Diversity, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent at Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NR, UK
Centre Asie du Sud-Est (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales), Maison de l'Asie, 22, Avenue du Président Wilson, Paris 75016, France
World Agroforestry Centre, ICRAF Southeast Asia, Jalan CIFOR, Situgede, Sindangbarang, Bogor 16115, Indonesia
Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, 617 Main Street, Burlington, VT 05405, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2012, 3(2), 207-229;
Received: 16 February 2012 / Revised: 31 March 2012 / Accepted: 11 April 2012 / Published: 7 May 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long-Term Effects of Fire on Forest Soils)
Anthropogenic soils of the Amazon Basin (Terra Preta, Terra Mulata) reveal that pre-Colombian peoples made lasting improvements in the agricultural potential of nutrient-poor soils. Some have argued that applying similar techniques could improve agriculture over much of the humid tropics, enhancing local livelihoods and food security, while also sequestering large quantities of carbon to mitigate climate change. Here, we present preliminary evidence for Anthropogenic Dark Earths (ADEs) in tropical Asia. Our surveys in East Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) identified several sites where soils possess an anthropogenic development and context similar in several respects to the Amazon’s ADEs. Similarities include riverside locations, presence of useful fruit trees, spatial extent as well as soil characteristics such as dark color, high carbon content (in some cases), high phosphorus levels, and improved apparent fertility in comparison to neighboring soils. Local people value these soils for cultivation but are unaware of their origins. We discuss these soils in the context of local history and land-use and identify numerous unknowns. Incomplete biomass burning appears key to these modified soils. More study is required to clarify soil transformations in Borneo and to determine under what circumstances such soil improvements might remain ongoing. View Full-Text
Keywords: char; soil fertility; Hortic Anthrosols; slash and burn; swidden; Terra Preta char; soil fertility; Hortic Anthrosols; slash and burn; swidden; Terra Preta
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Sheil, D.; Basuki, I.; German, L.; Kuyper, T.W.; Limberg, G.; Puri, R.K.; Sellato, B.; Van Noordwijk, M.; Wollenberg, E. Do Anthropogenic Dark Earths Occur in the Interior of Borneo? Some Initial Observations from East Kalimantan. Forests 2012, 3, 207-229.

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