Conversion of tropical forests to smallholder rubber and oil palm plantations impacts nutrient leaching losses and nutrient retention efficiency in highly weathered soils
Kurniawan, Syahrul ; Corre, Marife D. ; Matson, Amanda L. ; Schulte-Bisping, Hubert ; Utami, Sri Rahayu ; van Straaten, Oliver ; Veldkamp, Edzo
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/15340
Conversion of forest to rubber and oil palm plantations is widespread in Sumatra, Indonesia, and it is largely unknown how such land-use conversion affects nutrient leaching losses. Our study aimed to quantify nutrient leaching and nutrient retention efficiency in the soil after land-use conversion to smallholder rubber and oil palm plantations. In Jambi province, Indonesia, we selected two landscapes on highly weathered Acrisol soils that mainly differed in texture: loam and clay. Within each soil type, we compared two reference land uses, lowland forest and jungle rubber (defined as rubber trees interspersed in secondary forest), with two converted land uses: smallholder rubber and oil palm plantations. Within each soil type, the first three land uses were represented by 4 replicate sites and the oil palm by three sites, totaling 30 sites. We measured leaching losses using suction cup lysimeters sampled biweekly to monthly from February to December 2013. Forests and jungle rubber had low solute concentrations in drainage water, suggesting low internal inputs of rock-derived nutrients and efficient internal cycling of nutrients. These reference land uses on the clay Acrisol soils had lower leaching of dissolved N and base cations (P D0.01–0.06) and higher N and base cation retention efficiency (P < 0.01–0.07) than those on the loam Acrisols. In the converted land uses, particularly on the loam Acrisol, the fertilized area of oil palm plantations showed higher leaching of dissolved N, organic C, and base cations (P < 0.01–0.08) and lower N and base cation retention efficiency compared to all the other land uses (P < 0.01–0.06). The unfertilized rubber plantations, particularly on the loam Acrisol, showed lower leaching of dissolved P (P D 0:08) and organic C (P < 0.01) compared to forest or jungle rubber, reflecting decreases in soil P stocks and C inputs to the soil. Our results suggest that land-use conversion to rubber and oil palm causes disruption of initially efficient nutrient cycling, which decreases nutrient availability. Over time, smallholders will likely be increasingly reliant on fertilization, with the risk of diminishing water quality due to increased nutrient leaching. Thus, there is a need to develop management practices to minimize leaching while sustaining productivity.