Intercrops improve surface water availability in rubber-based agroforestry systems
Despite the development of rubber agroforestry systems for ecological and economic benefits in Southeast Asia, knowledge of their water uptake dynamics and interspecific water interactions remains limited. The objective of this study is to reveal the water relations (i.e., competition/complementarity) between rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) trees and different kinds of intercrops. We investigated the stable isotopes (δD and δ18O), fine root length density, and soil water content (SWC) under three agroforestry practices and one rubber monoculture across a year (2017/2018). Our results indicated that rubber trees acquired more than 40.5 ± 21.3% of their water from shallow (0~20 cm) soil stratum, as do perennial galangal (Alpinia officinarum), tea (Camellia sinensis), and cocoa (Theobroma cacao). The complementarity hypothesis was not supported for rubber trees and the intercrops. In the dry season (November to April), there was strong interspecific competition for shallow water resources where the intercropping was practiced. However, intercropping increased the available soil water, enabling rubber trees to acquire more (9.4~24.3%) shallow soil water. In the wet season (May to October), interspecific water competition was less pronounced based on the relative difference in soil water content (RDSW). Higher relative water content, in the order rubber-galangal > rubber-tea > rubber-cocoa, further showed that facilitative effects dominated interspecific water competition in all the agroforestry practices. This information regarding water relations between rubber trees and their intercrops will be essential to optimize land and water resource utilization in this region.
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|| Liu WJ|
||Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment|
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