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- Biomass and Nutrient Studies of Selected Tree Species of Natural and Plantation Forests: Implications for a Sustainable Management of the Munessa-Shashemene Forest, Ethiopia (2004)
- Plantation forests with exotic tree species have been introduced to alleviate the problems of deforestation in Ethiopia. In the future, more plantation forests with fast growing species should be grown for coping with the ever-increasing demands for fuelwood and other forest products. However, it is not known whether plantation forests are sustainable or not. For the sustainability of plantation forests with exotic tree species, it is of paramount importance to thoroughly understand their ecological and social attributes through a holistic approach. For this reason, a multidisciplinary project was initiated in the Munessa-Shashemene Forest. Such an approach gives valuable information about the sustainability of plantation forests when the basic ecological features of the natural forests are compared with plantation forests. As an integral part of the multidisciplinary project, the objectives of this study are to: 1) quantify the fine roots and aboveground biomass of selected tree species in both natural and plantation forests; 2) quantify the macronutrient stocks of the fine roots and aboveground components of selected trees species in both natural and plantation forests; and 3) evaluate the implication of the changes in the biomass and macronutrient stocks for a sustainable management of forests. The study focused on four tree species, Podocarpus falcatus (Thunb.) Mirb., Podocarpaceae and Croton macrostachys Hochst. ex Del. Euphorbiaceae, were selected from a natural forest. Cupressus lusitanica Miller, Cupressaceae and Eucalyptus globulus Labill. Myrtaceae were selected from plantation forests. Root architectures of the study trees were studied by excavation. The live fine root biomass (<2 mm in diameter) of the dry and wet seasons was determined from samples collected at the distances of 1, 2 and 3 meters from the bole of the study trees. At each of the distances, root cores were taken at the depth intervals 0-10, 10-35, 35-60, 60-85 and 85-100 cm using a hand auger. Linear regression equations were used to estimate the aboveground biomass on the basis of the relation between DBH and dry weights of the aboveground plant components. Macronutrient concentrations were determined following a standard laboratory procedure. Studies on the root architecture revealed that C. lusitanica has a shallow root and is more susceptible to windthrow compared to E. globulus. With the exception of E. globulus, the dry season live fine root (LFR) biomass was higher for all trees studied. The seasonal variation in the fine root biomass was attributed to the changes in soil moisture of the study area. For all trees investigated, the mean annual LFR biomass was highest at the depth interval 0-10 cm at all distances. The favorable soil texture, pH and organic matter content at the depth interval 0-10 cm might be responsible for higher LFR biomass. The significantly higher LFR biomass of P. falcatus (1.34 kg m-2) coupled with its higher macronutrient stocks compared to C. macrostachys (0.32 kg m-2) suggest the importance of P. falcatus in the sustainability of the natural forest by transferring more macronutrients to the soil through its fine roots. Similarly, the significantly higher total LFR biomass of C. lusitanica (0.88 kg m-2) coupled with its higher macronutrient stock compared to E. globulus (0.27 kg m-2) indicated less depletion of soil nutrients by the former. The stand structure of the natural and plantation forests differed largely. In the natural forest, the density of C. macrostachys was much higher (143 ± 72 trees ha-1) than the density of P. falcatus (73 ± 39 trees ha-1). Generally, the structural change of the natural forest due to selective cutting of P. falcatus was found to have negative implications on the sustainability of the natural forest. The differences in the structure of C. lusitanica and E. globulus, despite their similar densities, resulted in a significantly lower understory ground cover by herbaceous and shrub species in the former. The effect of a poor understory growth on the floor litter thickness and thereby on nutrient capital of the soil may negatively affect the sustainability of C. lusitanica plantation. The harvesting of the stemwood of C. lusitanica and E. globulus removes a substantial amount of nutrients from the plantation sites. Furthermore, the current practice of collecting foliage, twigs and branches for firewood by the local people results in a higher depletion of nutrients. In order to make the plantation forests sustainable, the silvicultural practice in the future should consider on site conservation of foliage and bark. It is recommended that more studies on aboveground and belowground biomass, fine root turnover, and nutrient concentrations of the plantation forests should be carried out in a chronosequence in order to gain more insight on their sustainability.