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Improving substrate fertility to enhance growth and reproductive ability of a Pinus halepensis Mill. afforestation in a restored limestone quarry

Abstract

We have evaluated the effects of improving substrate fertility on the growth and reproduction of a P. halepensis plantation in a restored limestone quarry on a stony calcareous regolith (R plots). The natural substrate was supplemented by adding a 0.2 m layer of a fine textured soil (RS plots) or a sewage sludge amended soil (RSS plots). The treatments were performed when the pines were 7 years old, and tree growth (height and trunk and canopy diameter) was monitored over the subsequent 12 years. The reproductive status of the trees was also measured when the pines were 20 years old. Tree growth was proportional to the amount of soil nutrients: 12 years after treatment the mean height of the R, RS and RSS trees was 1.5, 3.1 and 6.2 m respectively and growth increases over the baseline were 76, 264 and 632%. The treatment also affected the age of onset of reproduction (15, 11 and 9 years, respectively), the average number of cones per tree (12, 43 and 61), and the amount of seeds per cone (37, 52 and 72), but did not modify the germination percentage of pine seeds (ca 71.5%). Soil organic carbon increased proportionally to the vegetation development, contributing to carbon sequestration. These results suggest that improving the nutritional status of the soil not only improves the growth of trees, but it also ameliorates their reproductive ability (earlier reproduction onset and larger seed crop size). Implications for soil restoration through afforestation are also discussed.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the interest and help given by Mr. Ferran de Lucas, head of the mining company Canteras de Lucas (Alcover, Alt Camp, Catalonia). This work was partially funded by the Department of Environment of the Government of Catalonia and by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (Ref. AGL2009-12343).

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Ortiz, O., Ojeda, G., Espelta, J.M. et al. Improving substrate fertility to enhance growth and reproductive ability of a Pinus halepensis Mill. afforestation in a restored limestone quarry. New Forests 43, 365–381 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-011-9286-4

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Keywords

  • Afforestation
  • Soil rehabilitation
  • Organic amendment
  • Pinus halepensis
  • Reproduction
  • Sewage sludge