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Reforestation of agricultural land in the tropics: The relative contribution of soil, living biomass and debris pools to carbon sequestration

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Lewis, T., Verstraten, L., Hogg, B., Wehr, B. J., Swift, S., Tindale, N., Menzies, N. W., Dalal, R. C., Bryant, P., Francis, B. and Smith, T. E. (2019) Reforestation of agricultural land in the tropics: The relative contribution of soil, living biomass and debris pools to carbon sequestration. Science of The Total Environment, 649 . pp. 1502-1513. ISSN 0048-9697

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.351

Publisher URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969718333229


Tropical regions of the world experience high rates of land-use change and this has a major influence on terrestrial carbon (C) pools and the global C cycle. We assessed land-use change from agriculture to reforested plantings (with endemic species), up to 33 years of age, using 10 paired sites in the wet tropics, Australia. We determined the impacts on 0–50 cm below-ground C (soil organic C (SOC), charcoal C, humic organic C, particulate organic C, resistant organic C), C stored in roots (fine and coarse), C stored in living above-ground biomass and debris C pools. Reforested areas accumulated ecosystem C at a rate of 7.4 Mg ha−1 yr−1. Reforestation plantings contained, on average, 2.3 times more ecosystem C than agricultural areas (102 Mg ha−1 and 233 Mg ha−1, respectively). Most of the C accumulation was in living above-ground and below-ground biomass (60 and 30%, respectively) with a smaller amount in debris pools (16%). Apart from C in roots, soil C accumulation was not obvious across sites ranging from 8 to 33 years since reforestation, relative to the agricultural baseline. Differences in SOC (and associated SOC pools) to a depth of 50 cm, did exist between reforested areas and adjacent agriculture at some sites, however there was not a consistent trend in SOC associated with reforestation. Local site-based factors (e.g. soil texture and mineralogy, land-use history and microbial activity) appear to have a strong influence on the direction of the change in SOC. While reforestation in the tropics has great potential to accumulate C in biomass in living vegetation, and debris pools, it is likely to take approximately 50 years before C stocks of reforested areas resemble natural ecosystems. Accumulation of SOC through reforestation is difficult to achieve, highlighting the need to conserve carbon pools in remnant forests in the tropics.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Keywords:Restoration planting Soil organic carbon Litter Tree biomass Organic matter Rainforest Ecosystem carbon stocks
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Improvement, reclamation, fertilisation, irrigation etc., of lands (Melioration)
Forestry > Research. Experimentation
Live Archive:06 Mar 2019 04:56
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:45

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