Climatic Change

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 395-412

First online:

Deep Soil Moisture Storage and Transpiration in Forests and Pastures of Seasonally-Dry Amazonia

  • Peter H. JippAffiliated withThe Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
  • , Daniel C. NepstadAffiliated withThe Woods Hole Research Center
  • , D. K. CasselAffiliated withNorth Carolina State University
  • , C. Reis De CarvalhoAffiliated withEmpresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropequaria, Belém

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To assess the impacts of land-use changes on plant-available water (PAW) and evapotranspiration (ET), volumetric water content (VWC) was measured to 8 m beneath three, adjacent ecosystems for four years (1991–1994). Estimates of PAW, ET, and deep drainage were generated for mature evergreen forest, adjacent pasture, and capoeira (second-growth forest on abandoned pasture land). PAW between 0 and 8 m depth for forest, pasture, and capoeira ranged from a low of 56, 400, and 138 mm at the end of the 1992 dry season to a high of 941, 1116, and 1021 mm during the 1994 wet season. We found significant differences in deep (4–8 m) stocks of PAW when comparing pasture with both forest types. In contrast, mature forest and capoeira PAW were not significantly different from one another at any depth during the experiment. In all three ecosystems available soil moisture from 4–8 m was depleted during the 1991 dry season by plant water uptake and was not recharged to 1991 levels until 1994 due to an intervening 2-year, El Niño Southern Oscillation event. Water balance estimates (based on measurements to 8 m) showed an average 10% decrease in ET from pasture compared to mature forest. Less than 15 years after pasture abandonment, ET in second-growth forest recovered to rates nearly equaling the mature forest rate. In seasonally dry environments annual and interannual cycles of deep soil moisture recharge and depletion influence rates of transpiration and drainage. These deep cycles are not currently incorporated in models of regional and global moisture flux.