Impacts of fertilization on water quality of a drained pine plantation: a worst case scenario

Received for publication December 8, 2008. Intensive plantation forestry will be increasingly important in the next 50 yr to meet the high demand for domestic wood in the United States. However, forest management practices can substantially influence downstream water quality and ecology. This study analyses, the effect of fertilization on effluent water quality of a low gradient drained coastal pine plantation in Carteret County, North Carolina using a paired watershed approach. The plantation consists of three watersheds, two mature (31-yr) and one young (8-yr) (age at treatment). One of the mature watersheds was commercially thinned in 2002. The mature unthinned watershed was designated as the control. The young and mature-thinned watersheds were fertilized at different rates with Arborite (Encee Chemical Sales, Inc., Bridgeton, NC), and boron. The outflow rates and nutrient concentrations in water drained from each of the watersheds were measured. Nutrient concentrations and loadings were analyzed using general linear models (GLM). Three large storm events occurred within 47 d of fertilization, which provided a worst case scenario for nutrient export from these watersheds to the receiving surface waters. Results showed that average nutrient concentrations soon after fertilization were significantly ( = 0.05) higher on both treatment watersheds than during any other period during the study. This increase in nutrient export was short lived and nutrient concentrations and loadings were back to prefertilization levels as soon as 3 mo after fertilization. Additionally, the mature-thinned watershed presented higher average nutrient concentrations and loadings when compared to the young watershed, which received a reduced fertilizer rate than the mature-thinned watershed.

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