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Reforesting degraded agricultural landscapes with Eucalypts: Effects on carbon storage and soil fertility after 26years

Harper, R.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-0268-2917, Okom, A.E.A., Stilwell, A.T., Tibbett, M., Dean, C., George, S.J., Sochacki, S.J., Mitchell, C.D., Mann, S.S. and Dods, K. (2012) Reforesting degraded agricultural landscapes with Eucalypts: Effects on carbon storage and soil fertility after 26years. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 163 . pp. 3-13.

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In the Western Australian wheatbelt, the restoration of native eucalypt forests for managing degraded agricultural landscapes is a critical part of managing dryland salinity and rebuilding biodiversity. Such reforestation will also sequester carbon. Whereas most investigative emphasis has been on carbon stored in biomass, the effects of reforestation on soil organic carbon (SOC) stores and fertility are not known. Two 26 year old reforestation experiments with four Eucalyptus species (E. cladocalyx var nana, E. occidentalis, E. sargentii and E. wandoo) were compared with agricultural sites (Field). SOC stores (to 0.3 m depth) ranged between 33 and 55 Mg ha(-1), with no statistically significant differences between tree species and adjacent farmland. Farming comprised crop and pasture rotations. In contrast, the reforested plots contained additional carbon in the tree biomass (23-60 Mg ha(-1)) and litter (19-34 Mg ha(-1)), with the greatest litter accumulation associated with E. sargentii. Litter represented between 29 and 56% of the biomass carbon and the protection or utilization of this litter in fire-prone, semi-arid farmland will be an important component of carbon management. Exch-Na and Exch-Mg accumulated under E. sargentii and E. occidentalis at one site. The results raise questions about the conclusions of SOC sequestration studies following reforestation based on limited sampling and reiterate the importance of considering litter in reforestation carbon accounts.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
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