Articles | Volume 14, issue 11
Research article
07 Jun 2017
Research article |  | 07 Jun 2017

Soil nitrogen oxide fluxes from lowland forests converted to smallholder rubber and oil palm plantations in Sumatra, Indonesia

Evelyn Hassler, Marife D. Corre, Syahrul Kurniawan, and Edzo Veldkamp

Abstract. Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) plantations cover large areas of former rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia, supplying the global demand for these crops. Although forest conversion is known to influence soil nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitric oxide (NO) fluxes, measurements from oil palm and rubber plantations are scarce (for N2O) or nonexistent (for NO). Our study aimed to (1) quantify changes in soil–atmosphere fluxes of N oxides with forest conversion to rubber and oil palm plantations and (2) determine their controlling factors. In Jambi, Sumatra, we selected two landscapes that mainly differed in texture but were both on heavily weathered soils: loam and clay Acrisol soils. Within each landscape, we investigated lowland forests, rubber trees interspersed in secondary forest (termed as jungle rubber), both as reference land uses and smallholder rubber and oil palm plantations as converted land uses. In the loam Acrisol landscape, we conducted a follow-on study in a large-scale oil palm plantation (called PTPN VI) for comparison of soil N2O fluxes with smallholder oil palm plantations. Land-use conversion to smallholder plantations had no effect on soil N-oxide fluxes (P = 0. 58 to 0.76) due to the generally low soil N availability in the reference land uses that further decreased with land-use conversion. Soil N2O fluxes from the large-scale oil palm plantation did not differ with those from smallholder plantations (P = 0. 15). Over 1-year measurements, the temporal patterns of soil N-oxide fluxes were influenced by soil mineral N and water contents. Across landscapes, annual soil N2O emissions were controlled by gross nitrification and sand content, which also suggest the influence of soil N and water availability. Soil N2O fluxes (µg N m−2 h−1) were 7 ± 2 to 14 ± 7 (reference land uses), 6 ± 3 to 9 ± 2 (rubber), 12 ± 3 to 12 ± 6 (smallholder oil palm) and 42 ± 24 (large-scale oil palm). Soil NO fluxes (µg N m−2 h−1) were −0.6 ± 0.7 to 5.7 ± 5.8 (reference land uses), −1.2 ± 0.5 to −1.0 ± 0.2 (rubber) and −0.2 ± 1.2 to 0.7 ± 0.7 (smallholder oil palm). To improve the estimate of soil N-oxide fluxes from oil palm plantations in this region, studies should focus on large-scale plantations (which usually have 2 to 4 times higher N fertilization rates than smallholders) with frequent measurements following fertilizer application.

Short summary
We measured the soil N-oxide gases, N2O and NO in four land uses of Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia. We aimed to assess the impact of forest conversion to rubber and oil palm plantations on these N-oxide gases. We found that there were no differences in soil N-oxide fluxes among land uses. However, soil N-oxide fluxes increased following N-fertilizer application in oil palm plantations. We estimated an annual soil N-oxide emission of 361 t N yr−1 from N fertilization for the Jambi province.
Final-revised paper