, Volume 111, Issue 1–3, pp 515–533 | Cite as

Age-related changes in litter inputs explain annual trends in soil CO2 effluxes over a full Eucalyptus rotation after afforestation of a tropical savannah

  • Yann Nouvellon
  • Daniel Epron
  • Claire Marsden
  • Antoine Kinana
  • Guerric Le Maire
  • Philippe Deleporte
  • Laurent Saint-André
  • Jean-Pierre Bouillet
  • Jean-Paul Laclau


Land use changes such as savannah afforestation with eucalypts impact the soil carbon (C) balance, therefore affecting soil CO2 efflux (F s ), a major flux in the global C cycle. We tested the hypothesis that F s increases with stand age after afforestation, due to an increasing input of fresh organic matter to the forest floor. In a Eucalyptus plantation established on coastal savannahs in Congo, bimonthly measurements of F s were carried out for 1 year on three adjacent stands aged 0.9, 4.4 and 13.7 years and presenting similar growth patterns. Litterfall and litter accumulation on the forest floor were quantified over a chronosequence. Equations were derived to estimate the contribution of litter decomposition to F s throughout the rotation. Litterfall increased with stand age after savannah afforestation. F s , that was strongly correlated on a seasonal basis with soil water content (SWC) in all stands, decreased between ages 0.9 year and 4.4 years due to savannah residue depletion, and increased between ages 4.4 years and 13.7 years, mainly because of an increasing amount of decomposing eucalypt litter. The aboveground litter layer therefore appeared as a major source of CO2, whose contribution to F s in old stands was estimated to be about four times higher than that of the eucalypt-derived soil organic C pool. The high litter contribution to F s in older stands might explain why 13.7 years-old stand F s was limited by moisture all year round whereas SWC did not limit F s for large parts of the year in the youngest stands.


Afforestation Eucalyptus Litter Respiration Soil carbon Dissolved organic carbon Land use changes Congo 

List of symbols


Parameter describing the shape of the relationship between F s and θ s


Above-ground biomass of the savannah at the time of afforestation (kg DM m−2)


Below-ground biomass of the savannah at the time of afforestation (kg DM m−2)


Carbon fraction in biomass (kg C kg DM−1)


Labile savannah-derived soil C (kg C m−2)


Initial value (at the time of afforestation) of C SL (kg C m−2)


Annual soil CO2 efflux resulting from the decomposition of C SL (kg C m−2 year−1)


Annual soil CO2 efflux resulting from the decomposition of eucalypt above-ground litter (kg C m−2 year−1)


Annual soil CO2 efflux resulting from the respiration of Eucalyptus roots and associated mycorrhiza and from the decomposition of Eucalyptus below-ground litter and Eucalyptus-derived soil C (kg C m−2 year−1)


Annual soil CO2 efflux resulting from the decomposition of savannah residues (kg C m−2 year−1)


Soil CO2 effluxes (μmol m−2 s−1)


Cumulative annual soil CO2 efflux (kg C m−2 year−1)


Asymptotic soil CO2 effluxes obtained at high θ s (μmol m−2 s−1)


Decay coefficient of the labile savannah-derived soil C (year−1)


Decomposition coefficient of the forest floor (i.e. ratio F ff /(c M ff ); year−1)


Parameter describing the rate at which M ff approaches its asymptotic value as stands mature (year−1)


Parameter describing the rate at which L approaches its asymptotic value as stands mature (year−1)


Decay coefficient of decomposing above-ground savannah biomass (year−1)


Decay coefficient of decomposing below-ground savannah biomass (year−1)


Litterfall (kg DM m−2 year−1)


Asymptotic value of L in the relationship between L and stand age (kg DM m−2 year−1)


Litter mass on the forest floor (kg DM m−2)


Asymptotic value of M ff in the relationship between M ff and stand age (kg DM m−2)


Mean residence time (year)


Shape parameter in the relationship between M ff and stand age (unitless)


Volumetric soil water content in the 0–6 cm soil layer (m3 m−3)


Value of θ s for which modelled F s is zero (m3 m−3)


Value of θ s at which F s reaches 90% of F sm (m3 m−3)



This study was funded by the Observatoire de Recherche en Environnement F-ORE-T and the European Integrated Project Ultra Low CO2 Steelmaking (ULCOS-Contract n°515960). Additional economic support was provided through the EU-funded CARBOAFRICA project. Technical assistance was provided by the CRDPI.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yann Nouvellon
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
  • Daniel Epron
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Claire Marsden
    • 1
  • Antoine Kinana
    • 2
  • Guerric Le Maire
    • 1
  • Philippe Deleporte
    • 1
    • 2
  • Laurent Saint-André
    • 1
  • Jean-Pierre Bouillet
    • 1
    • 5
  • Jean-Paul Laclau
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.CIRAD, UMR Eco&SolsMontpellier Cedex 2France
  2. 2.CRDPIPointe-NoireRepublic of Congo
  3. 3.Nancy Université, Université Henri Poincaré, UMR1137 Ecologie et Ecophysiologie ForestièresVandoeuvre les NancyFrance
  4. 4.INRA, UMR1137 Ecologie et Ecophysiologie ForestièresChampenouxFrance
  5. 5.USP, ESALQPiracicabaBrazil
  6. 6.Departamento de Ciências Atmosféricas, IAGUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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