Subsidient: Lotte Mens/Wageningen University
Subsidy: 19.2-65

Conversion of forest to agricultural land is still wide-spread and often leads to soil degradation, resulting in a lowered soil infiltrability. Low infiltration rates increase the risk of surface runoff, often resulting in crop failure and water scarcity. Although it has been shown woody vegetation enhances water infiltration rates, little is known about how species may have differential effects on the soil hydrological properties. My study confirms earlier findings and shows woody biomass and vegetation cover enhances the soil infiltrability. Vegetation cover was found to positively affect the soil organic carbon content as well. This result highlights the importance of vegetation quantity on soil health. Acquisitive species, which have soft tissues, were found to positively affect the soil infiltrability whereas soil organic carbon content was positively influenced by the presence of more conservative species, which have tough tissues. The positive effect of vegetation quantity and litter quality on soil infiltrability might be explained by enhanced soil macroporosity caused by increased root and soil macrofauna abundance. The negative effect of acquisitive species on soil organic carbon might be explained by increased carbon mineralization in the presence of soft tissues. Planting and promoting a diverse tree community in combination with a relative high abundance of species with soft leaves might benefit overall soil health. This study demonstrates the usability of functional ecology for restoration and can have clear implications for improving land management.