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Land Resources Surveys


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 49(6)

Long-term effects of afforestation with Pinus radiata on soil carbon, nitrogen, and pH: a case study

R. L. Parfitt A C and D. J. Ross A B

A Landcare Research, Private Bag 11052, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
B Deceased.
C Corresponding author. Email: Parfittr@landcareresearch.co.nz

Soil Research 49(6) 494-503 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SR11106
Submitted: 10 May 2011  Accepted: 21 July 2011   Published: 25 August 2011

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Planting of Pinus radiata D. Don in previously grazed pastures is a common land-use change in New Zealand. Although carbon (C) accumulates relatively rapidly in the trees, there have been no studies of the annual effect on soil C content during the early years of establishment. Here, we study soil properties under P. radiata and pasture each year over 11 years after P. radiata was planted into pasture that had been grazed by sheep. Under the growing trees, grass was gradually shaded out by the unpruned trees, and completely disappeared after 6 years; needle litterfall had then increased appreciably. By year 9, soil microbial C and nitrogen (N), and net N mineralisation, were significantly lower under pine than under pasture. Soil pH, sampled at 0–100 mm in early spring each year, decreased by ~0.3 units under pine and increased by ~0.3 units under pasture. Close to the pine stems, total C and N decreased significantly for 3 years, while ~100 kg N/ha accumulated in the trees. Soil C and N increased in subsequent years, when litterfall increased. Overall, the mineral soil under pine lost ~500 kg N/ha over 11 years, consistent with uptake by the trees. Leaching losses (estimated using lysimeters) in year 9 were 4.5 kg N/ha.year. These data indicate that ~6 Mg C/ha may have been lost from the mineral soil at this site. The difficulties associated with measuring losses of C are discussed.

Additional keywords: ammonium, land-use change, microbial biomass, nitrate, pasture, phosphate, reforestation.


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