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Tree species composition influences differences in water use efficiency of upland forested microwatersheds

Petr, Kupec, Libor, Školoud, Jan, Deutscher
European journal of forest research 2018 v.137 no.4 pp. 477-487
Fagus sylvatica subsp. sylvatica, Picea abies, climate change, dominant species, evapotranspiration, forest ecosystems, forest management, forest stands, growing season, highlands, landscapes, mixed forests, species diversity, stand composition, stream flow, subwatersheds, summer, trees, water, water use efficiency
Water use efficiency (WUE) was compared in three upland South Moravian forested microwatersheds in the light of effects of global climate change on forest ecosystems (GCC). The experimental catchments were characterized as upland headwater forested microwatersheds of similar size and morphology and silvicultural system, but each with different dominant tree species in the stands (over 50% of forest stand composition in living stock): Norway spruce, European beech and mixed forest. WUE was evaluated according to mean daily streamflow reduction, measured at the discharge points of the recipients of the individual catchments in precipitation-free periods lasting more than 5 days. During these times, streamflow dynamics are mainly influenced by evapotranspiration processes occurring in the forest stands. Four precipitation-free periods were observed, two in the middle of the growing season and two at its end. Two of these periods were long (15 days or more), and two were shorter (6 days). The results indicated that WUE of upland forested catchments can be very different, depending upon the dominant tree species and the seasonal phase. Highest WUE at the catchment scale (never decreasing below 80%) was exhibited by beech predominating site. WUE of mixed forest was high as well, never decreasing below 69%. The lowest WUE was exhibited by spruce predominating site, especially during a long precipitation-free period in the summer where it decreased down to 39%. In the context of the landscape, upland microwatersheds with pure spruce stands could cause its accelerated dry out in the summer and pose a significant threat to sustainable water and forest management of these areas. In comparison, mixed forests stands where spruce is not the dominant species or beech stands should still be a viable option even under the effects of GCC.