Plant and Soil

, Volume 287, Issue 1–2, pp 347–357 | Cite as

Soil water, nutrient availability and sapling survival under organic and polyethylene mulch in a seasonally dry tropical forest

  • M. G. Barajas-Guzmán
  • J. Campo
  • V. L. Barradas
Original paper


We examine the effect of mulches on the soil volumetric water content (SVWC), pH, carbon (C), total and mineral (NH4 and NO3) nitrogen (N), total and bicarbonate phosphorus (P), and on the survival and relative growth rate of three species, Ipomea wolcottiana Rose, Lonchocarpus eriocarinalis Micheli and Caesalpinia eriostachys Benth, in a degraded seasonally dry tropical forest (SDTF) area. Our study year was unusually dry, with only half of the mean annual rainfall. Sixteen plots (5 × 6 m) for each of our four treatments, mulches with alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) straw, forest litter (SDTF litter), polyethylene and bare soil (control), were used. In each plot, 20 tree saplings were planted of each species. The SVWC was higher in plots mulched with polyethylene than in bare soil plots. The soil pH did not change with mulching, and there were no differences between treatments in the concentrations of soil organic C, total N, NO3 and total P. However, soil concentrations of NH4 were highest in plots with alfalfa straw and of bicarbonate P in plots with polyethylene. Sapling survival was higher in polyethylene mulch plots than in other mulching treatments, in the order I.␣wolcottiana > C. eriostachys > L. eriocarinalis. Sapling survival under organic mulches, alfalfa straw and forest litter were similar, and lowest in bare soil. The relative growth rate followed the order L. eriocarinalis < C. eriostachys < I. wolcotiana, and the growth rate of all species was greatest under polyethylene mulch. We conclude that a combination of polyethylene mulch with species of high growth rate is best for restoring seasonally dry tropical areas.


Caesalpinia eriostachys Ipomea wolcottiana Lonchocarpus eriocarinalis Low precipitation Mexico Restoration 


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We thank L. Hernández, G. Pardo, R. León, D. Juárez, M. Pérez and the staff of Chamela Biological Station for their assistance in the field and E. Solís for help with nutrient analysis. P. Huante provided helpful comments to a previous version of the manuscript. Special thanks go to the editor and four anonymous reviewers that helped to improve the manuscript. This research was supported by Dirección General de Asuntos del Personal Académico, UNAM (IN204599) and CONACyT (Mexico).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. G. Barajas-Guzmán
    • 1
  • J. Campo
    • 1
  • V. L. Barradas
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de EcologíaUNAMMexico D.F.Mexico

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