Eucalypt plantation management in regions with water stress
Most eucalypt plantations are managed in short rotations (6–8 years) and are established in regions with water and nutritional stresses of varying degrees. The mean annual increment in these regions ranges from 20 to 45 m3 ha−1 y−1 depending on the level of environmental stress. Improving natural resource use efficiency by breeding and matching genotypes to sites and using appropriate site management practices is a key challenge to sustain or increase productivity. Climate change is emerging as a driving force behind many of the current issues facing natural resources, and is likely to intensify the water constraint. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted significant increases in surface air temperatures and decreases in rainfall (with more erratic rainfall patterns) over the tropics and subtropics, affecting drier regions in particular. To be truly sustainable, forest management practices must be environmentally friendly, prevent or reduce land degradation, improve biodiversity and increase resilience to climate variation and change. The main efforts should address the problems of water scarcity, low soil fertility and reduced biodiversity. Forest growers should take into account the inherent risks of different forest management systems on the regional water availability and consider reducing forest productivity in order to maintain both ecological and social equilibrium. The design and implementation of management techniques should be adapted to the specific production and protection objectives, which depend on the regional and local edaphoclimatic circumstances, water resources management, protection against soil erosion, diseases, pests, bushfires, strong winds and alien species. This paper addresses the basic requirements for integrating genetic and silvicultural strategies to minimise the water constraints in eucalypt plantations and surrounding water and native vegetation resources. We show several examples of effective forest management actions on the scale of forest stand and watershed in use in Brazil.
Keywords: climate change, drought, plantation, tolerance, water deficit, watershed