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Use of palm-mat geotextiles for soil conservation: I. Effects on soil properties

Bhattacharyya, R., Fullen, M.A., Booth, C.A., Smets, T., Poesen, J., Black, A.
Catena 2011 v.84 no.3 pp. 99-107
Borassus, Mauritia flexuosa, aggregate stability, bulk density, conservation buffers, field experimentation, geotextiles, leaves, loamy sand soils, pH, soil conservation, soil density, soil organic matter, soil sampling, topsoil, water erosion, South America, United Kingdom, Western Africa
Despite geotextile-mats having the potential for soil conservation, field studies on the effects of geotextiles on soil properties are limited. Hence, the utilization of palm-mat geotextiles as a potential soil conservation technique was investigated at Hilton, east Shropshire, U.K. (52°33′5.7″ N, 2°19′18.3″ W). Geotextile-mats constructed from Borassus aethiopum (Borassus palm of West Africa) and Mauritia flexuosa (Buriti palm of South America) leaves are termed Borassus mats and Buriti mats, respectively. Field experiments were conducted at Hilton during 2007–2009, to study the impacts of Borassus and Buriti mats on selected properties of the topsoil (0–5cm). Ten fixed plots (10×1m on a 15° slope) were established, with duplicate treatments. The treatments were: (i) bare soil; (ii) permanent grassed; (iii) bare soil with 1m Borassus-mat buffer strips (area coverage ~10%) at the lower end of the plots; (iv) bare soil with 1m Buriti mat buffer strips (area coverage ~10%) at the lower end of the plots; and (v) completely-covered with Borassus mats. Initial and final soil samples of the topsoil were collected and analysed for bulk density, aggregate stability, soil organic matter (SOM), total soil C (TSC), total soil N (TSN) and pH. Results indicate that, apart from Borassus completely-covered plots, soil bulk density increased and aggregate stability decreased in all plots after two years. Despite decreases in SOM contents in bare plots, SOM content did not change after two years in the grassed and geotextile treated plots. Treatments had no effects on changes in pH, TSC or TSN. Both Borassus and Buriti mat-covers within the buffer strip plots had little impact on SOM, TSC and TSN changes compared with bare soils within the same plots. Thus, Borassus buffer strip plots were very effective in maintaining some soil properties (i.e. SOM, TSC, and TSN) after two years of erosion by water. In summary, utilization of Borassus mats as buffer strips was very successful in conserving soil properties on a loamy sand soil.