Subsoiling for planting trees in dehesa system: long-term effects on soil organic carbon

Navarro-Rosales, Francisco
Fernández-Habas, Jesús
Reyna-Bowen, Lizardo
Gómez, José A.
Fernández-Rebollo, Pilar
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Springer Nature
Incorporating trees into agricultural systems, including grasslands, increases the soil organic carbon sequestration and contributes to climate change mitigation. Site preparation for tree establishment is a common practice that can involve a variety of techniques and agricultural implements such as subsoiling. This study aimed to evaluate the long-term effects of subsoiling on soil organic carbon (SOC) concentrations and stocks in a Mediterranean grassland afforested with holm oaks 22 years ago and now converted into a Dehesa agroforestry system. The study was conducted in a dehesa farm in Southwest Spain. Soil samples were taken at six depths under 10 tree canopies within and outside the original subsoiling line. Subsoiling significantly decreased SOC concentration. Mean SOC concentration in the first 20 cm was 30% lower at the subsoiling line. SOC stocks for the first 60 cm were 2660 g m−2 within the subsoiling line and 4320 g m−2 outside the line. There was a clear reduction in SOC concentration and stock with increasing depth. Root abundance and deeper rooting increased with subsoiling but did not translate into sufficient carbon accumulation in the soil, which is moderate even after 22 years. This study reveals that, in the long term, there is a trade-off in CO2 sequestration between tree planting and soil subsoiling, highlighting the need for further research into the potential benefits and detriments of subsoiling.
© The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Agroforestry Systems, 2023, available online at: . Keywords: holm oak; agroforestry system; tilling; bulk density; soil condition.
Navarro-Rosales, F., Fernández-Habas, J., Reyna-Bowen, L. et al. Subsoiling for planting trees in dehesa system: long-term effects on soil organic carbon. Agroforest Syst 97, 699–710 (2023).