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Spatio-temporal patterns of throughfall and solute deposition in an open tropical rain forest

Zimmermann, Alexander, Germer, Sonja, Neill, Christopher, Krusche, Alex V., Elsenbeer, Helmut
Journal of hydrology 2008 v.360 no.1-4 pp. 87-102
tropical rain forests, throughfall, rain, atmospheric deposition, solutes, spatial variation, temporal variation, ions, anions, cations, dissolved organic carbon, wet season, plant growth, Brazil
The brief interaction of precipitation with a forest canopy can create a high spatial variability of both throughfall and solute deposition. We hypothesized that (i) the variability in natural forest systems is high but depends on system-inherent stability, (ii) the spatial variability of solute deposition shows seasonal dynamics depending on the increase in rainfall frequency, and (iii) spatial patterns persist only in the short-term. The study area in the north-western Brazilian state of Rondônia is subject to a climate with a distinct wet and dry season. We collected rain and throughfall on an event basis during the early wet season (n =14) and peak of the wet season (n =14) and analyzed the samples for pH and concentrations of [formula removed], Na⁺, K⁺, Ca²⁺, Mg²⁺, Cl⁻, [formula removed], [formula removed] and DOC. The coefficient of variation for throughfall based on both sampling intervals was 29%, which is at the lower end of values reported from other tropical forest sites, but which is higher than in most temperate forests. Coefficients of variation of solute deposition ranged from 29% to 52%. This heterogeneity of solute deposition is neither particularly high nor particularly low compared with a range of tropical and temperate forest ecosystems. We observed an increase in solute deposition variability with the progressing wet season, which was explained by a negative correlation between heterogeneity of solute deposition and antecedent dry period. The temporal stability of throughfall patterns was low during the early wet season, but gained in stability as the wet season progressed. We suggest that rapid plant growth at the beginning of the rainy season is responsible for the lower stability, whereas less vegetative activity during the later rainy season might favor the higher persistence of “hot” and “cold” spots of throughfall quantities. The relatively high stability of throughfall patterns during later stages of the wet season may influence processes at the forest floor and in the soil. Solute deposition patterns showed less clear trends but all patterns displayed a short-term stability only. The weak stability of those patterns is apt to impede the formation of solute deposition-induced biochemical microhabitats in the soil.