Impacts of soil and groundwater salinization on tree crop performance in post-tsunami Aceh Barat, Indonesia
The Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 had far reaching consequences for agriculture in Aceh province, Indonesia, and particularly in Aceh Barat district, 150 km from the seaquake epicentre. In this study, the spatial distribution and temporal dynamics of soil and groundwater salinity and their impact on tree crops were monitored in Aceh Barat from 2006 to 2008. On 48 sampling points along ten transects, covering 40 km of coastline, soil and groundwater salinity were measured and related to mortality and yield depression of the locally most important tree crops. Given a yearly rainfall of over 3000 mm, initial groundwater salinity declined rapidly from over 10 to less than 2 mS cm −1 within two years. On the other hand, seasonal dynamics of the groundwater table in combination with intrusion of saline water into the groundwater body led to recurring elevated salinity, sufficient to affect crops. Tree mortality and yield depression in the flooded area varied considerably between tree species. Damage to coconut (65% trees damaged) was related to tsunami run-up height, while rubber (50% trees damaged) was mainly affected by groundwater salinity. Coconut yields (−35% in average) were constrained by groundwater Ca 2+ and Mg 2+, while rubber yields (−65% on average) were related to groundwater chloride, pH and soil sodium. These findings have implications on planting deep-rooted tree crops as growth will be constrained by ongoing oscillations of the groundwater table and salinity.