, Volume 153, Issue 3, pp 663–674 | Cite as

The effect of forest type on throughfall deposition and seepage flux: a review

  • An De Schrijver
  • Guy Geudens
  • Laurent Augusto
  • Jeroen Staelens
  • Jan Mertens
  • Karen Wuyts
  • Leen Gielis
  • Kris Verheyen
Ecosystem Ecology


Converting deciduous forests to coniferous plantations and vice versa causes environmental changes, but till now insight into the overall effect is lacking. This review, based on 38 case studies, aims to find out how coniferous and deciduous forests differ in terms of throughfall (+stemflow) deposition and seepage flux to groundwater. From the comparison of coniferous and deciduous stands at comparable sites, it can be inferred that deciduous forests receive less N and S via throughfall (+stemflow) deposition on the forest floor. In regions with relatively low open field deposition of atmospheric N (<10 kg N ha−1 year−1), lower NH 4 + mean throughfall (+stemflow) deposition was, however, reported under conifers compared to deciduous forest, while in regions with high atmospheric N pollution (>10 kg N ha−1 year−1), the opposite could be concluded. The higher the open field deposition of NH 4 + , the bigger the difference between the coniferous and deciduous throughfall (+stemflow) deposition. Furthermore, it can be concluded that canopy exchange of K+, Ca2+ and Mg2+ is on average higher in deciduous stands. The significantly higher stand deposition flux of N and S in coniferous forests is reflected in a higher soil seepage flux of NO 3 , SO 4 2− , K+, Ca2+, Mg2+ and Al(III). Considering a subset of papers for which all necessary data were available, a close relationship between throughfall (+stemflow) deposition and seepage was found for N, irrespective of the forest type, while this was not the case for S. This review shows that the higher input flux of N and S in coniferous forests clearly involves a higher seepage of NO 3 and SO 4 2− and accompanying cations K+, Ca2+, Mg2+ and Al(III) into the groundwater, making this forest type more vulnerable to acidification and eutrophication compared to the deciduous forest type.


Coniferous forest Deciduous forest Nitrogen Sulphur Base cations 



The fourth author was granted a postdoctoral fellowship of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). This paper is connected to the activities of the EFI Project Centre CONFOREST.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • An De Schrijver
    • 1
  • Guy Geudens
    • 1
  • Laurent Augusto
    • 2
  • Jeroen Staelens
    • 1
  • Jan Mertens
    • 1
  • Karen Wuyts
    • 1
  • Leen Gielis
    • 1
  • Kris Verheyen
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of ForestryGhent UniversityGontrode (Melle)Belgium
  2. 2.UMR–TCEMINRA–BordeauxVillenave d’Ornon CedexFrance

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