First-rotation changes in soil carbon and nitrogen in a Eucalyptus plantation in Hawaii

Dan Binkley, Jason Kaye, Matthew Barry, Michael G. Ryan

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We measured soil changes through a full rotation of a Eucalyptus saligna (Sm.) plantation. We hypothesized that accretion of C from Eucalyptus trees (C3-derived carbon, C3-C) would be balanced by an equal loss of older soil C derived from sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) agriculture (C4-derived C, C4-C). We also hypothesized that large additions of N-containing fertilizer would increase C accretion by increasing the rate of C addition and decreasing the rate of C loss. The low spatial variability of the soil and the intensive sampling design provided precise tests of these hypotheses. Soil C averaged 13.8 kg m-2 for the O horizon plus the 0- to 45-cm depth mineral soil, with no change through the rotation [95% confidence interval (CI) ±0.057 kg m-2 yr-1], supporting the first hypothesis. Significant gains of C 3-C (0.136 kg m-2 yr-1) balanced the losses of C4-C (0.144 kg m-2 yr-1). The second hypothesis was tested in the field using three levels of repeated, complete fertilization (including N at rates of 300, 700, and 1600 kg N ha-1), and in laboratory incubations with N addition. Addition of N had no effect on the accumulation of soil N and C3-C, nor on the rate of loss of older C4-C, refuting the second hypothesis. This first-rotation forest plantation was not able to increase soil C, even with heavy fertilization. These results contrast markedly from the soil changes under the influence of N-fixing trees, indicating that the effect of N fixation on soil C derives from factors other than N supply.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1713-1719
Number of pages7
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science


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