Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 38, Issue 1–3, pp 99–120 | Cite as

Nutrient cycling under mixed-species tree systems in southeast Asia

  • P. K. Khanna


Eucalyptus and Acacia are two tree genera that are commonly used in industrial plantations and as components of agroforestry systems in southeast Asia. These fast-growing trees are mostly grown in monocultures. However, questions are now being raised about the long-term sustainability of their growth as well as their effects on site quality. Losses of N and P from the site through biomass harvest and during site preparation constitute a major nutrient drain. As an alternative to monocultures, mixed-species cultures which include at least one N2-fixing tree species can improve plant productivity and soil N dynamics. Among the various aspects of N dynamics in such stands, export of N during biomass harvest and inputs by the N2-fixing component are the most important.

Reported estimates of the amount of N fixed by acacia and other N2-fixing trees are highly variable, depending on inherited plant characteristics, tree age, site factors (e.g., drought), soil fertility (e.g., available P, metal toxicities) and unreliable methods of measuring N2-fixation. Of the available techniques for assessing N2-fixation by trees, the total N difference method (TND) is the simplest. The contribution of roots to assessments of N2-fixation is recognized but rarely measured.

For short-rotation mixed-species plantations, the amount and time of N transfer from N2-fixing trees to non-N2-fixing trees are important issues to consider when attempting to develop productive nutrient management strategies. Based on limited information from trials in southeast Asia, it appears that acacia fixes substantial amounts of N during the first few years of establishment and a significant amount of that N is transferred to adjacent eucalypts, thereby improving the growth and nutrition of the eucalypts. The presumed transfer of N from acacias to eucalypts during the early stages of plantation development probably results from belowground turnover of roots and nodules because aboveground litter decomposition is slight at this stage, and contributes little to the overall N dynamics.

The available information on P cycling in mixed-species stands, during the early stages of stand growth, provides inconclusive evidence as to whether the availability of soil P increases, despite indications of higher levels of phosphatase activity in the fine roots of nitrogen-fixing trees. This would imply that additional inputs of P as fertilizer are required to remove any P deficiency in mixed-species stands. Long-term observations are required for better understanding of the nutritional and growth benefits of including N2-fixing trees in mixed-species stands.

acacia eucalyptus N2-fixing trees N-transfer P-dynamics 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams MA and Attiwill PM (1984) Role of Acacia spp. in nutrient balance and cycling in regenerating Eucalyptus regnans F. Muell. forests. II. Field studies of acetylene reduction. Aust J Bot 32: 217–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ball JB, Wormald TJ and Russo L (1995) Experience with mixed and single species plantations. Commonwealth For Rev 74: 301–304Google Scholar
  3. Bargali SS, Singh RP and Singh SP (1992) Structure and function of an age series of eucalypt plantations in central Himalaya. II. Nutrient dynamics. Annals of Bot 69: 413–421Google Scholar
  4. Bernhard-Reversat F (1988) Soil nitrogen mineralization under a Eucalyptus plantation and a natural Acacia forest in Senegal. For Ecol Manage 23: 233–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Binkley D (1983) Ecosystem production in Douglas-fir plantations: interactions of red alder and site fertility. For Ecol Manage 5: 215–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Binkley D (1992) Mixtures of N2-fixing and non-N2-fixing species. In: Cannell MGR, Malcolm DC and Robertson PA (eds) The Ecology of Mixed-Species Stands of Trees, pp 99–123. Blackwell Sci Publi, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Binkley D, Dunkin KA, DeBell D and Ryan MG (1992a) Production and nutrient cycling in mixed plantations of Eucalyptus and Albizia in Hawaii. Forest Sci 38: 393–408Google Scholar
  8. Binkley D, Sollins P, Bell R, Sachs D and Myrold D (1992b) Biogeochemistry of adjacent conifer and alder-conifer stands. Ecology 73: 2022–2033CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bruijnzeel LA (1990) Hydrology of moist tropical forests and effects of conversion: a state of knowledge review. UNESCO — IHP, Humid Tropics Program, ParisGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown AHF (1992) Functioning of mixed-species stands at Gisburn, NW England. In: Cannell MGR, Malcolm DC and Robertson PA (eds) The Ecology of Mixed-Species Stands of Trees, pp 125–150. Blackwell Sci Publi, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Bunyavejchewin S (1989) Primary production of plots of five young close-spaced fast-growing tree species. III. Dry matter and nutrient content of litterfall. Nat Hist Bull Siam Soc 37: 65–73Google Scholar
  12. Bunyavejchewin S, Kiratiprayoon S and Kumpun T (1989) Primary production of plots of five young close-spaced fast-growing tree species. II. Above-ground biomass, nutrient and energy content. Nat Hist Bull Siam Soc 37: 57–63Google Scholar
  13. Cole D, Compton J, Van Micgroct H and Homann P (1990) Changes in soil properties and site productivity caused by red alder. Water Air Soil Pollut 54: 231–246Google Scholar
  14. Danso SKA, Bowen GD and Sanginga N (1992) Biological fixation in trees in agro-ecosystems. Plant Soil 141: 177–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. DeBell DS, Whitesell CD and Schubert TH (1985) Mixed plantations of Eucalyptus and leguminous trees enhance biomass production. Research Paper, Pacific-Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, USDA Forest Service, No. PSW-175Google Scholar
  16. DeBell DS, Whitesell CD and Schubert TH (1989) Using N2-fixing Albizia to increase growth of Eucalyptus plantations in Hawaii. For Sci 35: 64–75Google Scholar
  17. Denslow JS, Vitousek PM and Schultz JC (1987) Bioassay of nutrient limitations in a tropical rain forest soil. Oecologia 74: 370–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Duhoux E and Dommergues YR (1985) The use of nitrogen fixing trees in forestry and soil restoration in the tropics. In: Ssali H and Keya SO (eds) Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Africa, pp 384–400. Nairobi MIRCEN, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  19. El-Lakany MH and Mohamed SY (1993) Effects of species combination on the root characteristics of young Acacia saligna, Casuarina cunninghamiana and Eucalyptus camaldulensis trees. Alexandria J Agricultural Res 38: 211–227Google Scholar
  20. Ewel JJ (1986) Designing agricultural ecosystems for the humid tropics. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 17: 245–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fölster H and Khanna PK (1997) Dynamics of nutrient supply in plantation soils. In: Nambiar EKS and Brown A (eds) Better Management of Soil, Nutrients and Water in Tropical Plantation Forests. ACIAR, Canberra, Australia (in press)Google Scholar
  22. FAO (1992) Mixed and pure forest plantations in the tropics and sub-tropics. FAO Forestry paper 103 (based on the work of T.J. Wormald). FAO of the UN, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  23. FAO (1995) Plantations in tropical and subtropical regions — mixed and pure. FAO of the UN, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  24. Gauthier D, Diem HG, Dommergues YR and Ganry F (1985) Assessment of N2 fixation by Casuarina equisetifolia inoculated with Frankia ORS021001 using 15N methods. Soil Bio Biochem 17: 375–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Giardina CP, Huffman S, Binkley D and Caldwell BA (1995) Alders increase soil phosphorus availability in a Douglas-fir plantation. Can J For Res 25: 1652–1657Google Scholar
  26. Giller KE and Wilson KJ (1991) Nitrogen fixation in tropical cropping systems. CAB Int, Wallingford, United KingdomGoogle Scholar
  27. Gillespie AR and Pope PE (1990) Rhizosphere acidification increases phosphorus recovery of black locust: I. Model predictions and measured recovery. Soil Sci Soc Am J 54: 538–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Grove TS and Malajczuk N (1981) Nitrogen inputs to Eucalyptus marginata and E. diversicolor forests. In: Rummery RA and Hingston FJ (eds) Managing Nitrogen Economies of Natural and Man Made Ecosystems, pp 199–204. CSIRO, Perth, WAGoogle Scholar
  29. Hansen AP, Pate JS, Hansen A and Bell DT (1987) Nitrogen economy of post-fire stands of shrub legumes in jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forests of SW Australia. J Exp Bot 38: 26–41Google Scholar
  30. Hansen EA and Dawson JO (1982) Effect of Alnus glutinosa on hybrid Populus height growth in a short rotation intensively cultured plantation. Forest Sci 28: 49–59Google Scholar
  31. Högberg P and Kvarnström M (1982) Nitrogen fixation by the woody legume Leucaena leucocephala in Tanzania. Plant Soil 66: 21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Johnson DW and Lindberg SE (eds) (1992) Atmospheric Deposition and Forest Nutrient Cycling. Springer Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Kelty MJ (1992) Comparative productivity of monocultures and mixed-species stands. In: Kelty MJ (ed) The Ecology and Silviculture of Mixed-Species Forests, pp 125–141. Kluwer Academic Publ., The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  34. Khanna PK (1997) Comparison of growth and nutrition of young monocultures and mixed stands of Eucalyptus globulus and Acacia mearnsii. Forest Ecol Manage 94: 105–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Knowles R (1980) Nitrogen fixation in natural plant communities and soil. In: Bergersen FJ (ed) Methods for Evaluating Biological Nitrogen Fixation, pp 557–582. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Langkamp PJ, Swinden LB and Dalling MJ (1979) Nitrogen fixation (acetylene reduction) by Acacia pellita on areas restored after mining at Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory. Aust J Botany 27: 353–361Google Scholar
  37. Langkamp PJ and Dalling MH (1981) Managing the nitrogen economies of rehabilitated sites on Groote Eylandt. In: Rummery RA and Hingston FJ (eds) Managing Nitrogen Economies of Natural and Man Made Ecosystems, pp 170–176. CSIRO, Perth, WAGoogle Scholar
  38. Lawrie AC (1981) Nitrogen fixation by native Australian legumes. Aust J Bot 29: 143–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Liya SM, Odu CTI, Agboola AA and Mulongoy K (1990) Estimation of N2 fixation by nitrogen fixing trees in the subhumid tropics using 15-N dilution and difference methods. Paper presented at the fourth African Association for Biological Nitrogen Fixation. HTA. Ibadan, 24–28 Sept 1990Google Scholar
  40. Lugo AE, Wang D and Bormann FH (1990) A comparative analysis of biomass production in five tropical tree species. For Ecol Manage 31: 153–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mafongoya PL, Giller KE and Palm CA (1997) Decomposition and nutrient release patterns of tree prunings and litter. Agroforestry Systems 38: 77–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Miller HG (1995) The influence of stand development on nutrient demand, growth and allocation. Plant Soil 168/169: 225–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Montagnini F, Gonzalez E, Porras C and Rheingans R (1995) Mixed and pure forest plantations in the humid neotropics: a comparison of early growth, pest damage and establishment costs. Commonwealth For Rev 74: 306–314Google Scholar
  44. Motavalli PP, Palm CA, Elliot ET, Frey SD and Smithson PC (1995) Nitrogen mineralization in humid tropical soils: mineralogy, texture, and measured nitrogen fractions. Soil Sci Soc Am J 59: 1168–1175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nambiar EKS (1990/91) Management of forests under nutrient and water stress. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 54: 209–230Google Scholar
  46. Ndoye I and Dreyfus B (1988) N2 fixation by Sesbania rostrata and Sesbania sesban estimated using 15N and total N difference methods. Soil Bio Biochem 20: 209–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ndoye I, Gueye M, Danso SKA and Dreyfus B (1995) Nitrogen fixation in Faidherbia albida, Acacia raddiana, Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal estimated using the 15N isotope dilution technique. Plant Soil 172: 175–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nykvist N (1997) Uptake of nutrients in a plantation of Acacia mangium in relation to decrease in soil amounts. J Sustainable Forestry 4(1/2): 131–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ong CK and Huxley P (eds) (1996) Tree-Crop Interactions: a physiological approach. CAB International, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar
  50. Oreahrd ER and Darb GD (1956) Fertility changes under continual wattle culture with special reference to nitrogen and base status of the soil. Trans 6th Intern Congr Soil Sci, Paris, 1956, Vol. D, pp 305–310Google Scholar
  51. Pandey D (1995) Forest resources assessment 1990. Tropical forest plantation resources. FAO Forestry paper 128. FAO, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Swedish International Development Cooperation AgencyGoogle Scholar
  52. Raison RJ, Connell MJ and Khanna PK (1987) Methodology for studying fluxes of soil mineral-N in situ. Soil Biol Biochem 19: 521–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rennie RJ and Rennie AD (1983) Techniques for quantifying N2 fixation in association with non-legumes under field and greenhouse conditions. Can J Microbiol 29: 1022–1035CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Roskoski JP (1981) Nodulation and N2-fixation by Inga jinicuil, a woody legume in coffee plantations. I. Measurements of nodule biomass and field C2H2 reduction rates. Plant Soil 59: 201–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Roskoski JP, Montano J, van Kessel C and Catillejo G (1982) Nitrogen fixation by tropical woody legumes: potential source of soil enrichment. In: Graham PH and Harris SC (eds) BNF Technology for Tropical Agriculture, pp 447–454. CIAT, Cali, ColombiaGoogle Scholar
  56. Samraj P, Chinnamani S and Haldorai B (1977) Natural versus man-made forests in Nilgiris with special reference to run-off, soil loss and productivity. Indian Forester 103: 460–465Google Scholar
  57. Sanginga N, Mulongoy K and Ayanaba A (1985) Effect of nodulation and mineral nutrients on nodulation and growth of Leucaena leucocephala. In: Ssali H and Keya SO (eds) Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Africa, pp 419–427. Nairobi MIRCEN, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  58. Sanginga N, Danso SKA and Bowen GD (1989) Nodulation and growth of Allocasuarina and Casuarina species to phosphorus fertilization. Plant Soil 118: 125–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sanginga N, Bowen GD and Danso SKA (1991) Intra-specific variation in growth and P accumulation of Leucaena leucocephala and Gliricidia sepium as influenced by soil phosphate status. Plant Soil 133: 201–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sanginga N, Vanlauwe B and Danso SKA (1995) Management of biological N2 fixation in alley cropping systems: estimation and contribution to N balance. Plant and Soil 174: 119–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sanginga N, Zapata F, Danso SKA and Bowen GD (1990) Effect of successive cutting on nodulation and nitrogen fixation of Leucaena leucocephala using 15N dilution and the difference methods. In: van Beusichem ML (ed) Plant Nutrition-Physiology and Application, pp 667–674. Kluwer Academic Publ., Dordrecht, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  62. Sanginga N, Zapata F, Danso SKA and Bowen GD (1992) Estimating nitrogen fixation in Leucaena and Gliricidia using different 15N labelling methods. In: Mulongoy K, Gueye M and Spencer DC (eds) Biological Nitrogen Fixation and Sustainability of Tropical Agriculture, pp 265–275. Wiley-Sayce and AABNF co-publication, Chichester, UKGoogle Scholar
  63. Shearer G and Kohl H (1986) N2-fixation in field settings: estimations based on natural 15N abundance. Aust J Plant Physiol 13: 699–757Google Scholar
  64. Sim BL and Nykvist N (1991) Impact of forest harvesting and replanting. J Tropical Forest Sci 3: 251–284Google Scholar
  65. Snedecor GW and Cochran WG (1967) Statistical Methods, 6th ed. Iowa State Univ Press, Ames, Iowa, USAGoogle Scholar
  66. Sougoufara B, Danso SKA, Diem HG and Dommergues YR (1990) Estimating N2 fixation and N derived from soil by Casuarina equisetifolia using labelled 15N fertilizer: some problems and solutions. Soil Biol Biochem 22: 695–701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sun JS, Simpson RJ and Sands R (1992) Nitrogenase activity of two genotypes of Acacia mangium as affected by phosphorus nutrition. Plant Soil 144: 51–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Szott LT, Fernandes ECM and Sanchez PA (1991) Soil-plant interactions in agroforestry systems. For Ecol Manage 45: 127–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tsai SM, Da Silva PM, Cabezas WL and Bonetti R (1993) Variability in nitrogen fixation of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) intercropped with maize. Plant Soil 152: 93–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Turvey ND, Attiwill PM, Cameron JN and Smethurst PJ (1983) Growth of planted pine trees in response to variation in the densities of naturally regenerated acacias. For Ecol Manage 7: 103–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Vandermeer J (1989) The Ecology of Intercropping. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  72. Witkowski ETF (1991) Effects of invasive alien acacias on nutrient cycling in the coastal lowlands of the Cape Fynbos. J Applied Ecol 28: 1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Yadav JP, Sharma KK and Khanna P (1993) Effect of Acacia nilotica on mustard crop. Agroforestry Systems 21: 91–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Zou X (1993) Species effects on earthworm density in tropical tree plantations in Hawaii. Biol and Ferti Soils 15: 35–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zou X, Binkley D and Doxtader KG (1993) A new method for estimating gross phosphorus mineralization and immobilization rates in soils. Plant and Soil 147(1): 243–250Google Scholar
  76. Zou X, Binkley D and Caldwell BA (1995) Effects of dinitrogen-fixing trees on phosphorus biogeochemical cycling in contrasting forests. Soil Sci Soc Am J 59: 1452–1458CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. K. Khanna
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Forestry and Forest ProductsCSIROACTAustralia

Personalised recommendations