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Organic residue mass at planting is an excellent predictor of tree growth in Eucalyptus plantations established on a sandy tropical soil

Laclau J.P., Levillain J., Deleporte P., Nzila J.D.D., Bouillet J.P., Saint André L., Versini A., Mareschal L., Nouvellon Y., Thongo M'Bou A., Ranger J.. 2010. Forest Ecology and Management, 260 (12) : p. 2148-2159.

Tropical plantation forests are meeting an increasing proportion of global wood demand and comprehensive studies assessing the impact of silvicultural practices on tree and soil functioning are required to achieve sustainable yields. The objectives of our study were: (1) to quantify the effects of contrasting organic residue (OR) retention methods on tree growth and soil nutrient pools over a full Eucalyptus rotation and (2) to assess the potential of soil analyses to predict yields of fast-growing plantations established on tropical sandy soils. An experiment was set up in the Congo at the harvesting of the first rotation after afforestation of a native herbaceous savanna. Six treatments were set up in 0.26 ha plots and replicated in 4 blocks, with OR mass at planting ranging from 0 to 46.5Mgha?1. Tree growth over the whole rotation was highly dependent on OR management at planting. Over-bark trunk volume 7 years after planting ranged from 96m3 ha?1 in the treatment with forest floor and harvest residue removal at planting to 164m3 ha?1 in the treatment with the largest amount of OR. A comparison of nutrient stocks within the ecosystem at planting and at the end of the rotation suggested that nutrient contents in OR were largely involved in the different response observed between treatments. OR management treatments did not significantly modify most of the nutrient concentrations in the upper layers of the mineral soil. Conventional soil analyses performed before planting and at ages 1 and 3 years were unable to detect differences between treatments despite large differences in tree growth. In contrast, linear regressions between stand aboveground biomass at harvesting and OR mass at planting (independent variable) showed that OR mass was an excellent predictor of stand yield (R2 = 0.99). A large share of soil fertility comes from organic material above the mineral soil in highly weathered sandy soils and OR mass at planting might be used in conjunction with soil analyses to assess the potential of these soils to support forest plantations. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : sol tropical; fertilité du sol; sol sableux; résidu de récolte; substance nutritive; matière organique; rendement des cultures; croissance; forêt tropicale; plantations; eucalyptus; congo

Thématique : Production forestière; Physiologie végétale : croissance et développement; Fertilité du sol

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