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Nitrogen cycling in monospecific and mixed-species plantations of Acacia mangium and Eucalyptus at 4 sites in Brazil

Voigtlaender M., Brandani C., Caldeira D.R.M., Tardy F., Bouillet J.P., Gonçalves J.L.M., Moreira M.Z., Leite F.P., Brunet D., Paula R.R., Laclau J.P.. 2019. Forest Ecology and Management, 436 : p. 57-67.

DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2018.12.055

Mixing N-fixing trees with eucalypts is an attractive option to improve the long-term soil N status in fast-growing plantations established in tropical soils. A randomized block design was replicated at four sites in Brazil to compare the biogeochemical cycles in mono-specific stands of Eucalyptus (100E) and Acacia mangium (100A) with mixed-species plantations in a proportion of 1:1 (50A50E). Our study aimed to assess the effects of introducing A. mangium trees in Eucalyptus plantations on atmospheric N2 fixation, N cycling and soil organic matter stocks. Litterfall and soil N mineralization were measured over the last two years of the rotation (4¿6¿years after planting). Aboveground N accumulation in the trees and C and N stocks in the forest floor and in the top soil were intensively sampled at harvesting age. N2 fixation rates were estimated using the natural abundance of 15N as well as by the difference between total N stocks in 100A and 50A50E relative to 100E (accretion method). While the 15N natural abundance method was unsuitable, the accretion method showed consistently across the four sites that atmospheric N fixation reached about 250 and 400¿kg¿N¿ha-1¿rotation-1 in 50A50E and 100A, respectively. Except at one site with high mortality, N contents within trees at harvesting were approximately 40% higher in 100A than in 100E. Mean N contents in litterfall and N mineralization rates were about 60% higher in 100A than in 100E, with intermediate values in 50A50E. The amounts of N in litterfall were much more dependent on soil N mineralization rates for acacia trees than for eucalypt trees. Soil C and N stocks were dependent on soil texture but not influenced by tree species. N budgets over a 6-year rotation were enhanced by about 65¿kg¿N¿ha-1¿yr-1 in 100A and 40¿kg¿N¿ha-1¿yr-1 in 50A50E relative to monospecific eucalypt plantations. Introducing N-fixing trees in eucalypt plantations might therefore contribute to reducing the need for mineral N fertilization in the long-term.

Mots-clés : plantation forestière; acacia mangium; eucalyptus grandis; eucalyptus urophylla; culture en mélange; cycle de l'azote; fixation de l'azote; litière forestière; brésil

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