How to not trade water for carbon with tree planting in water-limited temperate biomes?

Tölgyesi, Csaba and Hábenczyus, Alida Anna and Kelemen, András and Török, Péter and Valkó, Orsolya and Deák, Balázs and Erdős, László and Tóth, Benedek György and Csikós, Nándor and Bátori, Zoltán (2023) How to not trade water for carbon with tree planting in water-limited temperate biomes? SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT, 856. ISSN 0048-9697

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The most widespread nature-based solution for mitigating climate change is tree planting. When realized as forest restoration in historically forested biomes, it can efficiently contribute to the sequestration of atmospheric carbon and can also entail significant biodiversity and ecosystem service benefits. Conversely, tree planting in naturally open biomes can have adverse effects, of which water shortage due to increased evapotranspiration is among the most alarming ones. Here we assessed how soil texture affects the strength of the trade-off between tree cover and water balance in the forest-steppe biome, where the global pressure for afforestation is threatening with increasing tree cover above historical levels. Here we monitored vertical soil moisture dynamics in four stands in each of the most common forest types of lowland Hungary on well-drained, sandy (natural poplar groves, and Robinia and pine plantations) and on poorly drained, silty-clayey soils (natural oak stands and Robinia plantations), and neighboring grasslands. We found that forests on sand retain moisture in the topsoil (approx. 20 cm) throughout the year, but a thick dry layer develops below that during the vegetation period, significantly impeding groundwater recharge. Neighboring sandy grasslands showed an opposite pattern, with often dry topsoil but intact moisture reserves below, allowing deep percolation. In contrast, forests on silty-clayey soils did not desiccate lower soil layers compared neighboring grasslands, which in turn showed moisture patterns similar to sandy grasslands. We conclude that, in water-limited temperate biomes where landscape-wide water regime depends on deep percolation, soil texture should drive the spatial allocation of tree-based climate mitigation efforts. On sand, the establishment of new forests should be kept to a minimum and grassland restoration should be preferred. The trade-off between water and carbon is less pronounced on silty-clayey soils, making forest patches and wooded rangelands viable targets for both climate mitigation and ecosystem restoration.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Climate change mitigation, Forest restoration, Grassland restoration, Nature-based solution, Soil texture, Water regime
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation / földrajz, antropológia, kikapcsolódás > GE Environmental Sciences / környezettudomány
Q Science / természettudomány > QH Natural history / természetrajz > QH540 Ecology / ökológia
Depositing User: MTMT SWORD
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2023 09:38
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2023 09:38

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