The conversion of natural forest to oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) plantation is perceived as a threat to biodiversity conservation. The aims of this investigation were to assess variation in soil physico-chemical parameters and macroinvertebrate structures following the conversion of secondary forests to oil palm plantations, and to understand what to expect with the aging of the plantations. We hypothesised that soil properties would be improved with respect to biodiversity conservation with the aging of the oil palm plantations. Sampling was carried out in secondary forests, and in 13-, 20- and 39-year-old oil palm plantations at the La Mé Station, Côte d’Ivoire. Three sampling areas were established in each land-use type and age class, for a total of 12 sampling areas. Over a 50-m transect, litter-dwelling macroinvertebrates were sampled by using pitfall traps, and topsoil (0–10 cm) macroinvertebrates by using monoliths (50 cm by 50 cm by 10 cm), following the modified ‘Tropical soil biology and fertility’ method. Soil physical and chemical parameters were characterised. The results showed that the conversion of secondary forests to oil palm plantations was characterised by changes in soil macroinvertebrate density (–30%), taxonomic richness (–37%) and functional groups (–17%), as well as soil bulk density (+14%) and water content (+16%), after ∼39 years of conversion. Soil organic carbon, total nitrogen and organic matter increased with the aging of plantations, and reached conditions similar to those of secondary forests. The human interference imposed on macroinvertebrate communities during site preparation and planting was not compensated by the reduction in the soil-degradation index over time. The results have implications for implementation of conservation agriculture and the related management practices.
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Vol. 71 • No. 9