The effect of soil compaction on germination and early growth of Eucalyptus albens and an exotic annual grass

Alison Skinner, Ian Lunt, Peter Spooner, Sue McIntyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Most agricultural land has been compacted to some degree by heavy machinery or livestock trampling. This legacy is expected to influence the success of tree seedling recruits in farmland areas where natural regeneration is being encouraged. We investigated the impact of soil compaction on seedlings of a woodland eucalypt (Eucalyptus albens) and an annual grass competitor (Vulpia myuros) in a laboratory experiment. Replicate soil cores were created at five bulk density levels; 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 or 1.4 Mg m-3 with a soil water content of 20%. The depth of root penetration declined linearly with increasing bulk density, resulting in a decrease in root depth of around 75% in the most compacted soil compared with the least compacted soil for both species. Shoot length and primary root length did not vary between soil bulk density levels for either species, but seedlings responded to increasing levels of compaction with oblique (non-vertical) root growth. Results suggest that young seedlings of both E. albens and V. myuros will be more susceptible to surface drying in compacted than uncompacted soils and therefore face a greater risk of desiccation during the critical months following germination. Any competitive advantage that V. myuros may have over E. albens is not evident in differential response to soil compaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-704
Number of pages7
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume34
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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