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Biomass production, nitrogen accumulation and symbiotic nitrogen fixation in a mixed-species plantation of eucalypt and acacia on a nutrient-poor tropical soil

21 November 2017

Tchichelle, S.-V. ; Mareschal, L. ; Koutika ; Epron, D.
Forest Ecology and Management, 2017, 403 : 103-111.
The success of mixed-species tree plantations depends on the balance between positive and negative interactions. Mixtures of Acacia mangium and Eucalyptus urophylla x grandis out-yield their respective monocultures in term of wood production on the Congolese coastal plain, suggesting that facilitation and/or competitive reduction surpass interspecific competition. We investigated how these interactions affected biomass production and N accumulation during the early growth stage of a second rotation of a mixed-species stand of these two species. We used the N-15 dilution method to estimate symbiotic nitrogen fixation and its contribution to N accumulation in acacia monoculture and mixture, and we assessed how much N derived from the atmosphere is transferred to the eucalypt trees in the mixed-species stand. Eucalypts grew taller and acacias grew larger in the mixture compared to the monocultures. N mineralomass was greater in the mixture relative to the average values in the two monocultures, with both species contributing to this enhanced N mineralomass. The amount of N derived from the atmosphere in the mixture was 60% higher than that expected given the amount found in acacia monoculture, and 16% of the nitrogen accumulated in eucalypt trees and aboveground eucalypt litterfall was derived from the atmosphere. Reduced competition for light and soil water also contributed to the increased growth of acacias in the mixture, showing that both species benefit from growing in a mixed stand.