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The role of harvest residues to sustain tree growth and soil nitrogen stocks in a tropical Eucalyptus plantation

Versini A., Zeller B., Derrien D., Mazoumbou J.C., Mareschal L., Saint André L., Ranger J., Laclau J.P.. 2014. Plant and Soil, 376 (1-2) : p. 245-260.

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-013-1963-y

Aims Tropical plantations are likely to supply a growing share of the increasing world demand for forest products. We aimed to gain insight into the role of the nitrogen (N) contained in harvest residues (HR) for tree growth and soil N stocks. Methods We used 15N-labeled harvest residues to (1) study the dynamic of N release throughout decomposition, (2) determine the vertical transport pathways of N from the forest floor to the upper soil layers, and (3) quantifying the contributions of HR to soil N stocks and the supply of N to young Eucalyptus trees. Results Almost all of the 15N initially contained in the HR was recovered 27 months after deposition, with 21 % remaining in HR, 38 % being transferred to the underlying O layer, 21 % being transferred to the 0-15 cm soil layer, and approximately 15 % accumulating in the tree biomass. Our results supported the presence of two pathways of N transfers from the O layer to the mineral soil: (1) the leaching of dissolved 15N from fresh litter during the first year after planting which actively contributed to Eucalyptus N nutrition and (2) the transport of particulate organic matter in percolating water which contributed to maintain N stocks in the first 15 cm of the soil. Approximately 40 % of the N content in 2-year-old Eucalyptus trees was derived from the labeled HR. Conclusions The sustainability of fast-growing Eucalyptus trees established on N-poor sandy tropical soils largely relies on organic residues, as an early source of mineral N for tree and as a source of organic N in the top soil.

Mots-clés : eucalyptus; plantation forestière; déchet d'exploitation forestière; rotation de coupe; litière forestière; matière organique du sol; fertilité du sol; croissance; fixation de l'azote; transport des substances nutritives; congo

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