Non-additive effects of mixing hybrid poplar and white spruce on aboveground and soil carbon storage in boreal plantations.
Mathilde Chomel, Annie DesRochers, Virginie Baldy, Marie Guittonny-Larchevêque, T Gauquelin.
The use of trees under intensive management is particularly important for rapid fiber production in boreal regions. Mixed-species plantations using species that have complementary ecological niches, such as hybrid poplar and white spruce, potentially can maximize the use of resources and, consequently, increase productivity. In the context of climate change, vegetation and soil carbon sequestration is of a particular interest as part of a possible means of compensating for CO2 emissions. Since higher productivity leads to higher CO2 sequestration, the use of mixed-species plantations could improve the ecological service of carbon storage compared to mono-specific plantations. We compared above-ground and soil C storage of nine-year-old mono-specific plantations of white spruce and hybrid poplar with mixed plantations of these two species. Soil carbon was evaluated by separately sampling four soil horizons, while aboveground carbon was assessed from tree biomass estimates using allometric relationships. Mixing white spruce and hybrid poplar exerted a substantial synergistic effect on above-ground and soil carbon storage. This positive effect was due to greater productivity of poplar (47% of biomass increase) and great accumulation of litter in soil surface horizons (52% L-horizon carbon increase) of mixed-species compared to mono-specific plantations. These results imply that in addition to wood production gains by poplar trees, mixed-species plantations of hybrid poplar and white spruce promotes greater carbon sequestration than mono-specific plantations of either hybrid poplar or white spruce, an important aspect of forest ecosystem services.