Change in total carbon stocks eight years after afforestation of a sub-humid grassland catchment with Pinus and Eucalyptus species

Abstract

Climate change is driving the impetus for carbon sequestration. Compared to other countries, little is known about C sequestration after grassland conversion to plantation forestry in South Africa. To this aim 27 sites were studied in the Weatherley catchment in the north eastern part of the Eastern Cape Province. About half of this 160 ha grassed catchment was planted to Pinus elliottii, Pinus patula, and Eucalyptus nitens. Soil organic carbon was measured in detail at the 27 sites before and eight years after afforestation, and augmented with litter and above-ground biomass measurements. The total C stocks for the different tree species and grassland areas were lowest for the grassland area (43.6 Mg C ha−1) and highest for the Pinus patula and Eucalyptus nitens areas (90.0 and 91.6 Mg C ha−1 respectively). In general, the afforested catchment aboveground C stocks contributed about a third to the total C stocks. Afforested soils in the poorly drained class had the lowest total C stocks (69.6 Mg C ha−1) compared to the freely drained soil group, which had 87.7 Mg C ha−1. Poorly and freely drained soil conditions therefore seemed to restrain tree growth while C sequestration was promoted on moderately drained soils. Afforestation contributed a total gain of 2 187 Mg C to the catchment, at a rate of 273 Mg C a−1 or 3.59 Mg C ha−1 a−1 for the afforested area only. The C sequestration rate by the plantation forest system was therefore 2.6 times that of the grassland system.

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Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge Mondi and PG Bison for granting access to the Weatherley research catchment, and Inkaba ye Africa (paper No 265), the Water Research Commission of South Africa, and the University of the Free State partially funding this research.

Funding

Mondi and PG Bison granted access to the Weatherley research catchment, while Inkaba ye Africa, the Water Research Commission of South Africa, and the University of the Free State for partially funded this research.

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CdP was responsible for experimental layout, assisted with data collection, and finalized the manuscript; RML performed most of the sample collection and analyses, and wrote the draft manuscript; CvH was project leader, solicited the funding, assisted with data collection, and wrote part of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to C. W. van Huyssteen.

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du Preez, C.C., Lebenya, R.M. & van Huyssteen, C.W. Change in total carbon stocks eight years after afforestation of a sub-humid grassland catchment with Pinus and Eucalyptus species. New Forests (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-021-09854-1

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Keywords

  • Carbon sequestration
  • Land use
  • Litter mass
  • Soil drainage class
  • Tree mass