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Soil water depletion and replenishment during first- and early second-rotation Eucalyptus globulus plantations with deep soil profiles

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 05:33 authored by Daniel Mendham, White, DA, Battaglia, M, McGrath, JF, Short, TM, Ogden, GN, Kinal, J
Eucalyptus globulus plantations are thought to use stored soil water when planted on ex-agricultural sites, and we hypothesized that this is likely to affect productivity of 2nd and later rotation plantations because the next rotations have access to less stored soil water. We used a combination of experiments and modeling to understand the impact of E. globulus plantations on soil water stores over the first rotation and early second rotation. The experiments were conducted at 3 contrasting sites in south-western Australia, and modeling was used to extrapolate the results to other climatic zones. Soil water dynamics were assessed to 8 m depth under a range of management options, including spacing and nitrogen addition in the first rotation, and coppice or seedling re-establishment in the 2nd rotation. We found that soil water stores declined over the course of the first rotation at all sites, with some (incomplete) annual replenishment evident at the higher rainfall sites, but less replenishment at depth, especially in the lower rainfall sites. Only the wettest of the 3 sites fully replenished with soil water after harvest of the 1st rotation. Plots with higher stocking rates had higher soil water depletion early in the rotation, although by the end of the first rotation, most treatments had similar soil water deficits of around 800 mm at all of the sites. Of the sites that were responsive to N fertilizer, there was a strong differential in the degree of soil water deficit between N treatments, with N fertilized trees using more of the soil water store each year, but also producing more wood. A process-based plantation growth model, CABALA, was found to be adequate for predicting soil water dynamics under the range of management options that we explored, and we applied it to understanding the potential replenishment of soil under 2nd rotation plantations in a range of climatic zones within the E. globulus estate in south-western Australia. This modeling showed that most sites with soil depths of more than 4 m (i.e., most of the estate) are unlikely to be fully replenished in the 2nd rotation, and that this is likely to have a significant impact on the capacity of sites to achieve similar productivity levels in the second rotation as the first unless the sites are given an opportunity for soil water replenishment between rotations. The results from this study suggest that plantation managers will need to understand soil water dynamics at any given site to be able to predict productivity in 2nd and later rotations, and may need to explore novel management options like fallowing between rotations to allow for soil water replenishment.


Publication title

Agricultural and Forest Meteorology: An International Journal










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


Elsevier Science Bv

Place of publication

Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

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© 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Socio-economic Objectives

Hardwood plantations

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