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Watershed-scale assessment of oil palm cultivation impact on water quality and nutrient fluxes: A case study in Sumatra (Indonesia)

Comte I., Colin F., Grünberger O., Whalen J., Widodo R.H., Caliman J.P.. 2015. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 22 (10) : p. 7676-7695.

DOI: 10.1007/s11356-015-4359-0

High fertilizer input is necessary to sustain high yields in oil palm agroecosystems, but it may endanger neighboring aquatic ecosystems when excess nutrients are transported to waterways. In this study, the hydrochemical dynamics of groundwater and streams under baseflow conditions were evaluated with bi-monthly measurements for 1 year on 16 watersheds. Hydrochemical measurements were related to the spatial distribution of soil and fertilization practices across a landscape of 100 km2, dominated by oil palm cultivation, in Central Sumatra, Indonesia. The low nutrient concentrations recorded in streams throughout the landscape indicated that the mature oil palm plantations in this study did not contribute to eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems. This was ascribed to high nutrient uptake by oil palm, a rational fertilizer program, and dilution of nutrient concentrations due to heavy rainfall in the study area. Soil type controlled dissolved inorganic N and total P fluxes, with greater losses of N and P from loamy-sand uplands than loamy lowlands. Organic fertilization helped to reduce nutrient fluxes compared to mineral fertilizers. However, when K inputs exceeded the oil palm requirement threshold, high K export occurred during periods when groundwater had a short residence time. For higher nutrient use efficiency in the long term, the field-scale fertilizer management should be complemented with a landscape-scale strategy of fertilizer applications that accounts for soil variability.

Mots-clés : elaeis guineensis; production forestière; Écologie d'eau douce; impact sur l'environnement; fertilisation; transport des substances nutritives; agroécosystème; productivité des terres; sumatra; indonésie

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