Understory vegetation in oil palm plantations benefits soil biodiversity and decomposition rates
Aryawan, Anak AK
Poppy, Guy M
Peh, Kelvin S-H
Snaddon, Jake L
Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
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Ashton-Butt, A., Aryawan, A. A., Hood, A., Naim, M., Purnomo, D., Suhardi,, Wahyuningsih, R., et al. (2018). Understory vegetation in oil palm plantations benefits soil biodiversity and decomposition rates. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 1 (10)https://doi.org/10.3389/ffgc.2018.00010
Oil palm is the most productive vegetable oil crop per unit area and is crucial to the economy of developing countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. However, it is also highly controversial due to the impact it has on biodiversity. Inputs of herbicides to control understory vegetation in plantations are high, which is likely to harm native biodiversity, but may be unnecessary in protecting oil palm yield. In this study we investigate the effects of understory manipulation using herbicides on soil fauna, litter decomposition rates and soil abiotic variables: pH, soil organic carbon, soil water content, nitrogen, carbon/nitrogen ratio, potassium and phosphorous. Understory vegetation was manipulated in three treatments: enhanced understory complexity (no herbicides, developed understory), normal understory complexity (intermediate herbicide use with some manual removal) and reduced understory complexity (heavy herbicide use, no understory vegetation). Two years after treatment, soil macrofauna diversity was higher in the enhanced than the normal and reduced understory treatment. Furthermore, both macrofauna abundance and litter decomposition was higher in the enhanced than the reduced understory treatment. By contrast, soil fertility did not change between treatments, perhaps indicating there is little competition between oil palms and understory vegetation. The reduction of herbicide use should be encouraged in oil palm plantations, this will not only reduce plantation costs, but improve soil biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
We are grateful to Pt Ivo Mas Tunggal and Golden Agri Resources for allowing us to conduct research on their oil palm plantations, as well as The Isaac Newton Trust, Cambridge and Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology Corporation Research Institute (SMARTRI) for funding the BEFTA Project and providing the resources necessary to conduct all fieldwork. We are grateful to SMARTRI researchers and staff, particular thanks to the SMARTRI soil chemistry laboratory for their advice and support with all aspects of the field data collection and for assistance with sample preparations, and soil nutrient analysis ... AA-B was funded by the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) [grant number NE/L002531/1], ET and JS were supported by the Natural Environment Research Council [grant number NE/P00458X/1]. KP acknowledges support from the Institute for Life Sciences at Southampton University. AH acknowledges support from the Claire Barnes Studentship from the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge. We thank RISTEK for research permission to set up and collect data from the BEFTA plots (426/SIP/FRP/SM/XI/2012, 72/EXT/SIP/FRP/SM/IX/2013, 44/EXT/SIP/FRP/SM/IX/2014).
Isaac Newton Trust (Minute 925(ab))
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/ffgc.2018.00010
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/287691
Attribution 4.0 International
Licence URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/