The study examined the impact of deforestation and subsequent cultivation on soil fertility and acidity conditions under varying soil depths. Soil profiles were opened in two adjacent land units, namely forestland and arable land and samples were collected from genetic horizons. Deterioration of soil fertility was observed after deforestation and traditional cultivation. The main aim of deforestation was agricultural expansion. Soil pH consistently decreased with depth in both land units and it was relatively lowest in arable land perhaps due to depletion of organic matter (OM) and decrease in buffering capacity of the soil. The OM and total nitrogen (N) ranged from 0.78 and 0.06% in the 75 to160 cm layer of arable land to 15 and 0.61% in the 0 to10 cm layer of forestland, respectively. Total N was strongly and positively correlated with soil OM (r = 0.99). Exchangeable Al was poorly and negatively correlated with available phosphorous (r = -0.41). Conversion of forestland to arable land reduced the mean available phosphorus (P) from 4.04 ppm to 1.95 ppm most probably due to decline in OM, soil acidification and erosion. Deforestation and subsequent continuous cultivation over the past 25 years apparently amplified the mean exchangeable acids from 0.83 cmol (+) kg-1 to 5.96 cmol (+) kg-1. Soil acidification and related problems were the major challenges of continuous cultivation in the study area. The study indicated that land use change and management practices have had a considerable negative effect on soil physical and chemical properties.
Key words: Deforestation, continuous cultivation, land use change, soil properties, soil fertility, soil acidity, Western Ethiopia.
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