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The fog regime in a tropical montane cloud forest in Brazil and its effects on water, light and microclimate

Bittencourt, Paulo R.L., Barros, Fernanda de V., Eller, Cleiton B., Müller, Caroline S., Oliveira, Rafael S.
Agricultural and forest meteorology 2019 v.265 pp. 359-369
air temperature, canopy, climate change, ecosystems, evapotranspiration, microclimate, rain forests, soil, trees, tropical montane cloud forests, vapor pressure deficit, water supply, wet season, Brazil
Fog is a frequent phenomenon in tropical montane cloud forests (TMCFs). These ecosystems are important to the water supply of adjacent lowland regions which is largely determined by the effect of fog on TCMF evapotranspiration rates and hydrological balance. Understanding fog regimes at fine-grained temporal resolution is key to predict plant functioning and effects of climatic changes in TMCFs, especially on key hydrological services that these forests provide. Here, we combine a suite of micrometeorological and hydrological sensors with a visibilimeter, a reliable sensor of fog occurrence, to gather fine-grained information on fog frequency, duration and timing and its contribution to water inputs, light availability and microclimatic variability in a Brazilian TMCF. Despite occurring on 64% of days, fog was highly variable at daily and seasonal scales, occurring mostly at night and during the rainy season. Approximately 1200 liters of fog were intercepted per tree per year (259 mm or 10.7% of total net precipitation). Fog also increased net precipitation provided by concomitant fog-rain events. Monthly net precipitation to precipitation ratio, a measure of how much water arrives at the soil and how much evaporates or is intercepted by the canopy, was 0.96 - much higher than the 0.72 typical of lowland rainforest, due to the additional fog water input on TMCF. Cloudiness, and not fog, dominated light availability and inter-day microclimatic variability (air temperature and vapor pressure deficit). High fog regime variability indicates that understanding TMCFs functioning requires integration of plant function with fine-grained data of fog and cloud occurrence. We discuss possible consequences of our results to TMCFs plant functioning.