Contribution of Eucalyptus Harvest Residues and Nitrogen Fertilization to Carbon Stabilization in Ultisols of Southern Bahia

ABSTRACT: Eucalyptus forests in southern Bahia (BA) are planted in soils with a sandy surface layer and humid tropical climate, conditions that lead to soil carbon (C) decomposition. Recent studies have shown that nitrogen (N) may be important for soil C stabilization. The aim of this study was to evaluate the contribution of Eucalyptus harvest residues and nitrogen fertilization to C stabilization in Ultisols of southern BA. The experiment was conducted in Eucalyptus clonal plantations cultivated in two regions of Eunápolis, BA, Brazil, with different clay content: southern region (140 g kg-1 of clay) and western region (310 g kg-1 of clay). Five treatments were evaluated: one control (CTR), without Eucalyptus harvest residues and N fertilization, and four treatments with harvest residues combined with four rates of N fertilization: 0, 25, 50, and 100 kg ha-1. Soil samples were collected from the 0.00-0.10, 0.10-0.20, 0.20-0.40, and 0.40-0.60 m layers at the beginning and the end of the experiment (36 months). The amount of C and N and the C and N isotopic ratio (δ13C and δ15N) of particulate organic matter (POM) and mineral-associated organic matter (MAOM) were determined. In the southern region after 36 months, the C-MAOM stocks in the 0.00-0.10 m layer of the CTR decreased by 33 %. The addition of harvest residue followed by 100 kg ha-1 N increased C-POM and N-POM stocks (0.00-0.10 m) compared to the CTR, and the final N-POM stocks and residue-C recovery in the surface soil layer were positively correlated with the increase in N fertilization rates. In the western region, residue maintenance resulted in increased C-MAOM stocks (0.00-0.10 m) compared to the CTR, but an increase in N availability reduced this increment. The increase in N fertilization rates did not alter C stocks, but reduced N stocks of POM and MAOM in the upper soil layer. At the end of the experiment, N fertilizer recovery (0.00-0.60 m) was similar among the regions evaluated. In soil with lower clay content, higher N availability led to higher C and N stocks in the particulate fraction. In soils with high clay content, physical and chemical protections are more important than N fertilization for soil C stabilization, and just maintaining harvest residues may suffice to increase C and N in the more stable SOM fraction.