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Silvopastoralism in New Zealand: review of effects of evergreen and deciduous trees on pasture dynamics

Abstract

Complex interactions between livestock, trees and pasture occur in silvopastoral systems. Between trees and pasture, competition for soil resources (nutrients and water) occurs, becoming especially relevant when one of them is in scarce supply. Trees reduce light and water reaching the understorey layers according to tree density and canopy size. However, they may ameliorate extreme climatological features (reducing wind speed and evapotranspiration, and alleviating extreme temperatures), and improve soil properties, for example, deciduous tree litter may contribute to increased pH and soil nutrient concentrations. During tree establishment, there are generally negligible effects on pasture, irrespective of tree type. However, there is a decline in pasture production and nutritive value under shade with increasing tree age and higher stand density. Under the same conditions, deciduous trees affect pasture later (extinction point of pasture occurs at 85% of canopy closure) than evergreen trees (about 67% for Pinus radiata D. Don). This is mainly because deciduous trees have a leafless period that enables pasture recovery, and their litter smothers pasture less intensely because of its relatively fast decomposition. Silvopastoral studies conducted in New Zealand are reviewed to discuss these effects, and differences in the effects of evergreen and deciduous trees are shown using the examples of P. radiata, and Populus and Salix spp. respectively, which exist in many temperate countries. Future research needs are outlined.

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Acknowledgements

We thank M. R. Mosquera Losada, I. R. McIvor and A. D. Mackay, for their valuable comments on the manuscript. We are also grateful to library staff of AgResearch Grasslands, Palmerston North, New Zealand, for their inestimable help in reference research, and to Isabelle Vanderkolk for logistical assistance. This research was supported by a fellowship awarded to R. Benavides from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science, in the context of project AGL2003-05342.

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Benavides, R., Douglas, G.B. & Osoro, K. Silvopastoralism in New Zealand: review of effects of evergreen and deciduous trees on pasture dynamics. Agroforest Syst 76, 327 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-008-9186-6

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Keywords

  • Botanical composition
  • Management
  • Pasture responses
  • Shade
  • Soil properties
  • Yield