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Rehabilitation of desurfaced soils by afforestation in La Plata County, Argentina

Giménez, J.E., Salerno, M.I., Hurtado, M.A.
Land degradation & development 2002 v.13 no.1 pp. 69-77
Argiudolls, Eucalyptus, afforestation, agricultural land, bricks, clay, climatic factors, crops, grazing, livestock breeding, nutrient content, topsoil, tree growth, trees, Argentina
Removal of topsoil, mainly for making bricks, is one of the main causes of soil loss around large urban centres of the Humid Pampa, Argentina. In about 7 per cent of La Plata County, the 20–40 cm thick A-horizon has been removed for that purpose. Most of the affected areas were originally prime farmland; however, with removal of the A-horizon they became unsuitable for agriculture, including grazing, since the exposed Bt-horizon is unsuited for plant growth due to its high clay content (45–65 per cent) and the low nutrient levels. Since trees survive better on poor soils than do agricultural crops, the possibility of afforestating desurfaced soils has been studied. Eucalyptus are one of the major species used in tree planting programmes aimed at reclaiming degraded soils since they are fast growing and can grow to commercial size in a wide range of soils and climatic conditions. The work reported here was done in a desurfaced Vertic Argiudoll and a similar non-desurfaced soil (control). Three Eucalyptus species were tested, i.e. E. camaldulensis, E. viminalis and E. dunnii. Their height and diameter (dbh) growth were 47.9 to 75.8 per cent less and timber volume 86.5 to 98.5 per cent less on the desurfaced soil. E. camaldulensis grew best in all the parameters in the desurfaced soil. Although tree growth was poor, afforestation may be an alternative use for desurfaced soils where agriculture and livestock breeding are not possible.