Main content area

Fog precipitation and rainfall interception in the natural forests of Madeira Island (Portugal)

Prada, Susana, Menezes de Sequeira, Miguel, Figueira, Celso, da Silva, Manuel Oliveira
Agricultural and forest meteorology 2009 v.149 no.6-7 pp. 1179-1187
temperate forests, islands, precipitation, rain, fog (meteorology), leaves, altitude, canopy, vegetation, throughfall, montane forests, secondary forests, groundwater recharge, water balance, Madeira Islands
Situated in the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is a within-plate volcanic island, approximately 600km northwest of the Western African coast. Cloud cover formed mainly of orographic origin persists on Madeira for more than 200 days per year between 800m and 1600m altitude. Since vegetation occupies 2/3 of the island's surface, fog precipitation, which occurs when fog droplets are filtered by the forest canopy and coalesce on the vegetation surfaces to form larger droplets that drip to the forest floor, is an important hydrological input. Rainfall interception and fog precipitation data were collected between 1996 and 2005 in the natural forests of Madeira. Six throughfall gauges were placed under the canopy of three different types of forest: high altitude tree heath forest (1580m), secondary tree heath forest (1385m) and humid laurisilva forest (1050m). Fog precipitation is higher under high altitude heath forest (average canopy interception was -225% of gross precipitation) and dependent both on altitude and vegetation type, due to different tree architecture and leaf shape. Although results are conservative estimates of fog precipitation, they point towards the importance of fog-water as a source of groundwater recharge in the water balance of the main forest ecosystems of Madeira.