Effects of Long-Term Nitrogen Fertilization and Ground Water Level Changes on Soil CO2 Fluxes from Oil Palm Plantation on Tropical Peatland

A long-term study on the effect of nitrogen (N) fertilization on soil carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes in tropical peatland was conducted to (1) quantify the annual CO2 emissions from an oil palm plantation under different N application rates and (2) evaluate the temporal effects of groundwater level (GWL) and water-filled pore space (WFPS) on soil organic carbon (SOC) and CO2 fluxes. Monthly measurement of soil CO2 fluxes using a closed chamber method was carried out from January 2010 until December 2013 and from January 2016 to December 2017 in an oil palm plantation on tropical peat in Sarawak, Malaysia. Besides the control (T1, without N fertilization), there were three N treatments: low N (T2, 31.1 kg N ha−1 year−1), moderate N (T3, 62.2 kg N ha−1 year−1), and high N (T4, 124.3 kg N ha−1 year−1). The annual CO2 emissions ranged from 7.7 ± 1.2 (mean ± SE) to 16.6 ± 1.0 t C ha−1 year−1, 9.8 ± 0.5 to 14.8 ± 1.4 t C ha−1 year−1, 10.5 ± 1.8 to 16.8 ± 0.6 t C ha−1 year−1, and 10.4 ± 1.8 to 17.1 ± 3.9 t C ha−1 year−1 for T1, T2, T3, and T4, respectively. Application of N fertilizer had no significant effect on annual cumulative CO2 emissions in each year (p = 0.448), which was probably due to the formation of large quantities of inorganic N when GWL was temporarily lowered from January 2010 to June 2010 (−80.9 to −103.4 cm below the peat surface), and partly due to low soil organic matter (SOM) quality. A negative relationship between GWL and CO2 fluxes (p < 0.05) and a positive relationship between GWL and WFPS (p < 0.001) were found only when the oil palm was young (2010 and 2011) (p < 0.05), indicating that lowering of GWL increased CO2 fluxes and decreased WFPS when the oil palm was young. This was possibly due to the fact that parameters such as root activity might be more predominant than GWL in governing soil respiration in older oil palm plantations when GWL was maintained near or within the rooting zone (0–50 cm). This study highlights the importance of roots and WFPS over GWL in governing soil respiration in older oil palm plantations. A proper understanding of the interaction between the direct or indirect effect of root activity on CO2 fluxes and balancing its roles in nutrient and water management strategies is critical for sustainable use of tropical peatland.
  • Authors: Chaddy, A., Melling, L., Ishikura, K., Goh, K.J., Toma, Y., Hatano, R.
  • Author Affiliation: Hokkaido University, Sarawak Tropical Peat Research Institute, Hokkaido Research Organization, Advanced Agriecological Research
  • Subjects: soil carbon, nitrogen, fertilization, peatlands, porosity, oil palms, plantations
  • Publication type: Journal Article, ISI
  • Source: Atmosphere 12(10): 1340
  • Year: 2021
  • DOI:
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