Current issue: 56(4)
In the southwestern pre-Saharan arid zone of Morocco, the endemic argan forest (Argania spinosa) had been almost completely destroyed in the 1960s due to intensive coal mining and mixed cereal-livestock farming. These activities turned out to be unviable and a massive rural exodus occurred in the 1970s. Local populations started to develop maintenance-free prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) cultivation at large scale in order to keep their land ownership rights, while reducing their traditional agropastoral activity. We conducted a survey in order to characterize the relationships between the age of prickly pear orchards and argan tree regeneration. We also explored facilitating factors, such as soil organic matter and mycorrhiza. Results showed a high positive correlation (r2 = 0.75, p < 0.001) between the age of prickly pear orchards and argan tree resprouts, but with differences depending on a continentality gradient. The soil organic matter content also showed highly significant differences (p < 0.001) depending on the age of the prickly pear plantation, while spora density did not show such differences. The recent high economic value attributed to prickly pear fruits, and to both argan and prickly pear seed oil, has given farmers the opportunity to develop a lucrative agricultural activity, while promoting the recovery of native vegetation. This situation constitutes a remarkable example of speculative agricultural development in a very harsh environment, in phase with ecological priorities for combating desertification. It could represent an alternative to the externally-generated projects sustained by high levels of public funding, with ecological, economic and social impacts which are sometimes questionable.
Silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.) is one of the main pioneer tree species occupying large areas of abandoned agricultural lands under natural succession in Estonia. We estimated aboveground biomass (AGB) dynamics during 17 growing seasons, and analysed soil nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) dynamics for 10 year period in a silver birch stand growing on former arable land. Main N fluxes were estimated and nitrogen budget for 10-year-old stand was compiled. The leafless AGB and stem mass of the stand at the age of 17-years were 94 and 76 Mg ha–1 respectively. The current annual increment (CAI) of stemwood fluctuated, peaking at 10 Mg ha–1 yr–1 at the age of 15 years; the mean annual increment (MAI) fluctuated at around 4–5 Mg ha–1. The annual leaf mass of the stand stabilised at around 3 Mg ha–1 yr–1. The stand density decreased from 11600 to 2700 trees ha–1 in the 8- and 17-year-old stand, respectively. The largest fluxes in N budget were net nitrogen mineralization and gaseous N2-N emission. The estimated fluxes of N2O and N2 were 0.12 and 83 kg ha–1 yr–1, respectively; N leaching was negligible. Nitrogen retranslocation from senescing leaves was approximately 45 kg ha–1, N was mainly retranslocated into stembark. The N content in the upper 0–10 cm soil layer increased significantly (145 kg ha–1) from 2004 to 2014; soil C content remained stable. Both the woody biomass dynamics and the N cycling of the stand witness the potential for bioenergetics of such ecosystems.