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Snowmelt and the hydrological interaction of forest–grassland ecosystems in Central Yakutia, eastern Siberia

Lopez Caceres, M. L., Takakai, F., Iwahana, G., Fedorov, A. N., Iijima, Y., Hatano, R., Fukuda, M.
Hydrological processes 2015 v.29 no.14 pp. 3074-3083
air temperature, carbon, climate change, ecosystems, forest growth, forest soils, forests, grasslands, growing season, lakes, rain, snow, snowmelt, soil water, spring, thawing, water flow, winter, Siberia
In the last two decades the major focus of study in forest water and carbon balances in eastern Siberia has been on the effect of rain during the growing season. Little attention has been paid to the contribution of snowmelt water. The results of the present study indicate that weather conditions during the snowmelt period as well as the soil moisture conditions carried from the previous year's growing season strongly determined the water availability for the forest ecosystem at the beginning of the next growing season. In the forest–grassland intermingled ecosystem of lowland Central Yakutia, gradual snowmelt water flow from the forest into the adjacent grassland depressions increased when soil moisture was high and air temperature was low, whereas low soil moisture and high air temperatures accelerated soil thawing and consequently snowmelt water infiltration into the forest soil. We found that snow depth did not determine the volume of snowmelt water moving to the grassland depression since the thermokarst lake water level in the adjacent grassland was about 25 cm lower in 2005 than in May 2006, even though maximum snow depth reached 57 cm and 43 cm in the winter of 2004–05 and 2005–06, respectively. The contribution of snowmelt water to forest growth as well as the flow of water from the forest to the grasslands showed a strong annual variability. We conclude that warmer springs and high variability in precipitation regimes as a result of climate change will result in more snowmelt water infiltration into the forest soil when the previous year's precipitation is low while more snowmelt water will flow into the thermokarst lake when the previous year's precipitation is high. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.