Rainfall partitioning varies across a forest age chronosequence in the southern Appalachian Mountains

Steven T. Brantley, Chelcy F. Miniat, Paul V Bolstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Evaporation of precipitation from plant surfaces, or interception, is a major component of the global water budget. Interception has been measured and/or modelled across a wide variety of forest types; however, most studies have focused on mature, second-growth forests, and few studies have examined interception processes across forest age classes. We present data on two components of interception, total canopy interception (Ei) and litter interception—that is, Oi + Oe horizon layers—(Eff), across a forest age chronosequence, from 2 years since harvest to old growth. We used precipitation, throughfall, and stemflow collectors to measure total rainfall (P) and estimate Ei; and collected litter biomass and modelled litter wetting and drying to estimate evaporative loss from litter. Canopy Ei, P minus throughfall, increased rapidly with forest age and then levelled off to a maximum of 21% of P in an old-growth site. Stemflow also varied across stands, with the highest stemflow (~8% of P) observed in a 12-year-old stand with high stem density. Modelled Eff was 4–6% of P and did not vary across sites. Total stand-level interception losses (Ei + Eff) were best predicted by stand age (R2 = 0.77) rather than structural parameters such as basal area (R2 = 0.49) or leaf area (R2 < 0.01). Forest age appears to be an important driver of interception losses from forested mountain watersheds even when stand-level structural variables are similar. These results will contribute to our understanding of water budgets across the broader matrix of forest ages that characterize the modern forest landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2081
JournalEcohydrology
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Keywords

  • forest succession
  • funnelling ratios
  • interception
  • stemflow
  • throughfall

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