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Effects of solar parks on soil quality, CO2 effluxes and vegetation under Mediterranean climate
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  • Quentin Lambert,
  • Armin Bischoff,
  • Alexandre Cluchier,
  • Sixtine Cueff,
  • Raphael Gros
Quentin Lambert
Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Écologie Marine et Continentale
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Armin Bischoff
Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Écologie Marine et Continentale
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Alexandre Cluchier
ECO-MED
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Sixtine Cueff
INRAE Île-de-France-Versailles-Grignon
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Raphael Gros
Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Écologie Marine et Continentale
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Abstract

Solar energy is increasingly used to produce electricity in Europe, but the environmental impact of constructing and running solar parks (SP) is not yet well studied. Solar park construction requires partial vegetation removal and soil leveling. Additionally, solar panels may alter soil microclimate and functioning. In our study of three French Mediterranean solar parks, we analyzed 1) effects of solar park construction on soil quality by comparing solar park soils with those of semi-natural land cover types (pinewood and shrubland) and abandoned croplands (abandoned vineyards); 2) the effect of solar panels on soil microclimate, CO2 effluxes and vegetation. We measured 21 soil properties of physical, chemical, and microbiological soil quality in one solar park and its surroundings to calculate integrated indicators of soil quality. We surveyed soil temperature and moisture, CO2 effluxes and vegetation below and outside solar panels of three solar parks. Soil aggregate stability was reduced by SP construction resulting in a degradation of soil physical quality. Soil chemical quality and a general indicator of soil quality were lower in anthropogenic (SP and abandoned vineyards) than in semi-natural (pinewood and shrubland) land cover types. However, differences between abandoned vineyards representing the pre-construction land cover type and solar parks were not significant. Solar panels reduced the soil temperature by 10% and soil CO2 effluxes by 50% but did not affect early successional plant communities. Long-term monitoring is needed to evaluate the effects of solar panels on vegetation.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

31 May 2021Submitted to Land Degradation & Development
02 Jun 2021Assigned to Editor
02 Jun 2021Submission Checks Completed
06 Jun 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
21 Jun 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending