Edaphic and climatic effects on forest stand development, net primary production, and net ecosystem productivity simulated for Coastal Plain loblolly pine in Virginia



[1] We used SECRETS-3PG to simulate net primary production (NPP) and net ecosystem productivity (NEP) of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) growing on the Virginia Coastal Plain, focusing on the effects of soils and climate, and stand age over a 30-year rotation. Soil type was influential, with heavier soils having greater NEP earlier in the rotation than lighter, sandier soils, although these differences disappeared by the rotation end. Climate had only a small effect. Stand age had the largest effect, with simulated annual NEP strongly negative during the first 5 to 8 years of development but peaking at +600 g C m−2 a−1 by age 13. Modest declines in NEP after 13 years were associated with declines in LAI as stands aged. The 30-year mean annual NEP was positive over most of the study area but in a few cases was indistinguishable from zero for northwestern portions of the study. Simulated annual NPP rose from zero to over 2300 g biomass m−2 a−1 by age 12, after which it declined to ∼1700 g biomass m−2 a−1 by rotation end. These results suggest that loblolly pine plantations on the Coastal Plain of Virginia may become net annual C sinks 5 to 9 years after planting but that when averaged over a whole rotation the net carbon accumulation during the baseline rotation simulated here is indistinguishable from zero. Our results also suggest, however, that this finding is sensitive to the length of the rotation, soil type (and thus fertility), and climate, implying that changes in management practices could significantly influence the carbon balance in managed loblolly pine plantations.