Current issue: 53(4)
The article considers the relation of shifting cultivation to deforestation and degradation, and hence its impacts in terms of carbon emissions and sequestration potential. There is a need to understand these relationships better in the context of international policy on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). The article reviews the way in which shifting cultivation has been incorporated in global and national estimations of carbon emissions, and assembles the available information on shifting cultivation in Tropical Dry Forests (TDF) in Mexico, where it is widely practiced. It then takes the case of two villages, Tonaya and El Temazcal, which lie within the basin of the River Ayuquila in Jalisco, Mexico. Field data for the typical carbon stocks and fluxes associated with shifting cultivation are compared with stocks and fluxes associated with more intensive agricultural production in the same dry tropical forest area to highlight the carbon sequestration dynamics associated with the shortening and potential lengthening of the fallow cycles. The biomass density in the shifting cultivation system observed can reach levels similar to that of old growth forests, with old fallows (>20 years) having higher carbon stocks than old growth forests. Per Mg of maize produced, the biomass-related emissions from shifting cultivation in the traditional 12 year cycle are about three times those from permanent cultivation. We did not, however, take into account the additional emissions from inputs that result from the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the case of permanent agriculture. Shortening of the fallow cycle, which is occurring in the study area as a result of government subsidies, results in higher remaining stocks of carbon and lower emissions at the landscape level.
The quantification of the contribution of tropical forests to global carbon stocks and climate change mitigation requires availability of data and tools such as allometric equations. This study made available volume and biomass models for eighteen tree species in a semi-deciduous tropical forest in West Africa. Generic models were also developed for the forest ecosystem, and basic wood density determined for the tree species. Non-destructive sampling approach was carried out on five hundred and one sample trees to analyse stem volume and biomass. From the modelling of volume and biomass as functions of diameter at breast height (Dbh) and stem height, logarithmic models had better predictive capabilities. The model validation showed that in absence of data on height, models using Dbh only as variable was an alternative. The comparison of basic wood densities to data published in literature enabled to conclude that the non-destructive sampling was a good approach to determining reliable basic wood density. The comparative analysis of species-specific models in this study with selected generic models for tropical forests indicated low probability to identify effective generic models with good predictive ability for biomass. Given tree species richness of tropical forests, the study demonstrated the hypothesis that species-specific models are preferred to generic models, and concluded that further research should be oriented towards development of specific models to cover the full range of dominant tree species of African forests.
Boreal forest soil contains significant amounts of organic carbon. Soil disturbance, caused for example by site preparation or stump extraction, may increase decomposition and thus lead to higher CO2 emissions, contributing to global warming. The aim of this study was to quantify responses of soil-surface CO2 fluxes (Rs) and litter (needle and root) decomposition rates following various kinds of soil disturbance commonly caused by mechanical site preparation and stump harvest. For this purpose four treatments were applied in a clear-cut site in central Sweden: i) removal of the humus layer and top 2 cm of mineral soil, ii) placement of a humus layer and 2 cm of mineral soil upside down on top of undisturbed soil, forming a double humus layer buried under mineral soil, iii) heavy mixing of the humus layer and mineral soil, and iv) no disturbance (control). Rs measurements were acquired with a portable respiration system during two growing seasons. To assess the treatments’ effects on litter decomposition rates, needles or coarse roots (Ø = 6 mm) were incubated in litterbags at positions they would be located after the treatments (buried, or on top of the soil). The results indicate that site preparation-simulating treatments have no effect or may significantly reduce, rather than increase, CO2 emissions during the following two years. They also show that buried litter decomposes more rapidly than litter on the surface, but in other respects the treatments have little effect on litter decomposition rates.