Combining Eucalyptus wood production with the recovery of native tree diversity in mixed plantings: Implications for water use and availability

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Forest Ecology and Management, ISSN: 0378-1127, Vol: 418, Page: 34-40

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Nino Tavares Amazonas; David I. Forrester; Rafael Silva Oliveira; Pedro H.S. Brancalion
Elsevier BV
Agricultural and Biological Sciences; Environmental Science
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article description
Mixed forest plantations now emerge as an alternative to traditional plantations in the tropics and represent ecological gains associated with production, wood quality and nutrient cycling. Mixed plantations with higher diversity may also be advantageous concerning their use of soil water. To shed light onto water-related issues of mixing Eucalyptus and a high diversity of tropical native trees, we explored the following questions: What is the impact of high diversity mixed plantations of Eucalyptus intercropped with native trees on soil water? How does the mixture affect the physiology of water use in native trees? Firstly, we tested the hypothesis that stands of Eucalyptus mixed with a high diversity of native trees consume less water compared to Eucalyptus monocultures, by measuring the temporal dynamics of soil water. Secondly, we tested how mixing with Eucalyptus affects the hydraulic performance of fast- and slow-growing native species in these forestry systems. This is the first time a large experiment has been implemented to compare the effects of monospecific Eucalyptus plantations, native species mixtures and mixed plantations of Eucalyptus and native species on soil water dynamics under controlled conditions in terms of site, age, soil type, topography and climate. We found that high diversity mixed plantations of Eucalyptus and native trees use less soil water, than Eucalyptus monocultures. However, the soil under the mixtures was drier than in native species stands. The mixing with Eucalyptus affected the hydraulic performance of native species by decreasing the leaf water potential and stomatal conductance of the fast-growing species, suggesting that fast-growing species performance may be especially constrained by competition for water from Eucalyptus. These findings have important implications for forest management and ecological restoration in the tropics. They will help to further develop silvicultural options to adapt to climate change and improve plantation forestry by using mixed plantations for production purposes or rehabilitation of degraded lands.