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Short-term changes in the soil carbon stocks of young oil palm-based agroforestry systems in the eastern Amazon

Abstract

The current expansion of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) in the Brazilian Amazon has mainly occurred within smallholder agricultural and degraded areas. Under the social and environmental scenarios associated with these areas, oil palm-based agroforestry systems represent a potentially sustainable method of expanding the crop. The capacity of such systems to store carbon (C) in the soil is an important ecosystem service that is currently not well understood. Here, we quantified the spatial variation of soil C stocks in young (2.5-year-old) oil palm-based agroforestry systems with contrasting species diversity (high vs. low); both systems were compared with a ~10-year-old forest regrowth site and a 9-year-old traditional agroforestry system. The oil palm-based agroforestry system consisted of series of double rows of oil palm and strips of various herbaceous, shrub, and tree species. The mean (±standard error) soil C stocks at 0–50 cm depth were significantly higher in the low (91.8 ± 3.1 Mg C ha−1) and high (87.6 ± 3.3 Mg C ha−1) species diversity oil palm-based agroforestry systems than in the forest regrowth (71.0 ± 2.4 Mg C ha−1) and traditional agroforestry (68.4 ± 4.9 Mg C ha−1) sites. In general, no clear spatial pattern of soil C stocks could be identified in the oil palm-based agroforestry systems. The significant difference in soil carbon between the oil palm area (under oil palm: 12.7 ± 2.3 Mg C ha−1 and between oil palm: 10.6 ± 0.5 Mg C ha−1) and the strip area (17.0 ± 1.4 Mg C ha−1) at 0–5 cm depth very likely reflects the high input of organic fertilizer in the strip area of the high species diversity oil palm-based agroforestry system treatment. Overall, our results indicate a high level of early net accumulation of soil C in the oil palm-based agroforestry systems (6.6–8.3 Mg C ha−1 year−1) that likely reflects the combination of fire-free land preparation, organic fertilization, and the input of plant residues from pruning and weeding.

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Acknowledgments

We are indebted to Mr. Ernesto Suzuki for granting permission to use the experimental area. This project was funded by Natura Inovacao e Tecnologia de Produtos Ltda., Cooperativa Mista de Tome-Açu(CAMTA), Ministerio da Ciencia e Tecnologia (MCT), and the Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuaria (EMBRAPA). We wish to thank the team of the Laboratorio de Ecofisiologia Vegetal of Embrapa Amazonia Oriental. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments that improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Steel Silva Vasconcelos.

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de Carvalho, W.R., Vasconcelos, S.S., Kato, O.R. et al. Short-term changes in the soil carbon stocks of young oil palm-based agroforestry systems in the eastern Amazon. Agroforest Syst 88, 357–368 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-014-9689-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-014-9689-2

Keywords

  • Brazilian Amazonia
  • Elaeis guineensis
  • Regrowth forest
  • Slash-and-mulch