Impact of Populus Plantations on Water and Soil Quality
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBioenergy Research. 2017, 10 (3), 750-759. 10.1007/s12155-017-9836-5
Trees of genus Populus (in our context primarily poplars) are predominantly grown in Sweden in small plantations on arable land in southern and central parts of the country to produce biomass for energy and other purposes. This study evaluated the effects (i) of poplar plantations on groundwater quality, by determining differences in leaching of nitrogen and phosphorus to groundwater, and (ii) of poplar and hybrid aspen plantations on soil quality in terms of carbon in the top- and subsoil. The study was conducted comparing Populus plantations in Sweden with adjacent fields with cereals and grasslands. The experiment concerning the groundwater leaching was conducted in eight poplar plantations along three growing seasons (2012–2015). For the soil carbon experiments, 19 poplar and two hybrid aspen plantations and the respective reference fields were sampled. NO3-N leaching from poplar plantations was significantly lower than that from reference fields with cereals, but not when compared with grasslands. Spring NO3-N leaching was significantly lower in poplars than in the reference fields, whereas leaching of NO3-N in autumn did not differ. Concentrations of PO4-P in the groundwater of poplar plantations were lower compared to the respective ones of the reference fields. There were no clear trends observed when comparing carbon concentrations in the topsoil of the poplar and hybrid aspen plantations compared to the respective adjacent reference fields. For the subsoil, the average carbon concentrations in the poplar and hybrid aspen plantations were equal to the respective ones of cereals, but were higher when compared to grassland.