Dominance of legume trees alters nutrient relations in mixed species forest restoration plantings within seven years

Abstract

Failures in reforestation are often attributed to nutrient limitation for tree growth. We compared tree performance and nitrogen and phosphorus relations in adjacent mixed-species plantings of contrasting composition, established for forest restoration on Ultisol soil, originally covered by tropical semi-deciduous Atlantic Forest in Southeast Brazil. Nutrient relations of four tree species occurring in both planting mixtures were compared between a legume-dominated, species-poor direct seeding mixture of early-successional species (“legume mixture”), and a species-diverse, legume-poor mixture of all successional groups (“diverse mixture”). After 7 years, the legume mixture had 6-fold higher abundance of N2-fixing trees, 177% higher total tree basal area, 22% lower litter C/N, six-fold higher in situ soil resin-nitrate, and 40% lower in situ soil resin-P, compared to the diverse mixture. In the legume mixture, non-N2-fixing legume Schizolobium parahyba (Fabaceae-Caesalpinioideae) had significantly lower proportional N resorption, and both naturally regenerating non-legume trees had significantly higher leaf N concentrations, and higher proportional P resorption, than in the diverse mixture. This demonstrate forms of plastic adjustment in all three non-N2-fixing species to diverged nutrient relations between mixtures. By contrast, leaf nutrient relations in N2-fixing Enterolobium contortisiliquum (Fabaceae-Mimosoideae) did not respond to planting mixtures. Rapid N accumulation in the legume mixture caused excess soil nitrification over nitrate immobilization and tighter P recycling compared with the diverse mixture. The legume mixture succeeded in accelerating tree growth and canopy closure, but may imply periods of N losses and possibly P limitation. Incorporation of species with efficient nitrate uptake and P mobilization from resistant soil pools offers potential to optimize these tradeoffs.

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Acknowledgements

We thank collaborators at UNESP–FCA for their help with sampling and lab analyses: Aparecido A. de Arruda, Beatriz R.M. Caes, José C. Coelho, Dr. Hélio Grassi Filho, Dr. Iraê A. Guerrini, Andreza M. Martins, Paulo E. dos S. Massoca, Elder C. de Mattos, Ana Maria M. Rufino, Manoel C. Santana. We thank Dr. M.Z. Moreira for technical support (CENA–USP), and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. I.S. was supported by an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship from The University of Queensland. The sampling and analyses were funded by The University of Queensland and the reforestation experiment was established with funding from the USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry.

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Correspondence to Ilyas Siddique.

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Siddique, I., Engel, V.L., Parrotta, J.A. et al. Dominance of legume trees alters nutrient relations in mixed species forest restoration plantings within seven years. Biogeochemistry 88, 89–101 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-008-9196-5

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Keywords

  • Native tree plantations
  • Nodulating multi-purpose trees
  • Nutrient retranslocation
  • Soil nitrate
  • Stand nitrogen accrual
  • Tropical forest restoration