Aquatic Geochemistry

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 127–149 | Cite as

Identifying Controls on Water Chemistry of Tropical Cloud Forest Catchments: Combining Descriptive Approaches and Multivariate Analysis

  • Amelie Bücker
  • Patricio Crespo
  • Hans-Georg Frede
  • Kellie Vaché
  • Felipe Cisneros
  • Lutz BreuerEmail author


We investigated controls on the water chemistry of a South Ecuadorian cloud forest catchment which is partly pristine, and partly converted to extensive pasture. From April 2007 to May 2008 water samples were taken weekly to biweekly at nine different subcatchments, and were screened for differences in electric conductivity, pH, anion, as well as element composition. A principal component analysis was conducted to reduce dimensionality of the data set and define major factors explaining variation in the data. Three main factors were isolated by a subset of 10 elements (Ca2+, Ce, Gd, K+, Mg2+, Na+, Nd, Rb, Sr, Y), explaining around 90% of the data variation. Land-use was the major factor controlling and changing water chemistry of the subcatchments. A second factor was associated with the concentration of rare earth elements in water, presumably highlighting other anthropogenic influences such as gravel excavation or road construction. Around 12% of the variation was explained by the third component, which was defined by the occurrence of Rb and K and represents the influence of vegetation dynamics on element accumulation and wash-out. Comparison of base- and fast flow concentrations led to the assumption that a significant portion of soil water from around 30 cm depth contributes to storm flow, as revealed by increased rare earth element concentrations in fast flow samples. Our findings demonstrate the utility of multi-tracer principal component analysis to study tropical headwater streams, and emphasize the need for effective land management in cloud forest catchments.


Ecuador Tropical cloud forest Principal component analysis Water quality Land-use change Rare earth elements 



We are indebted to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for funding this project (FOR816). We thank Nature and Culture International (NCI) in Loja for providing research facilities and access to the area. Furthermore, we thank Dr. Jan Feyen for initiating and supporting the cooperation between the University of Giessen, Germany and PROMAS in Ecuador. The help of Beate Lindenstruth, Heike Weller, and Dorit Zörner with the IC and ICP measurements is greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amelie Bücker
    • 1
  • Patricio Crespo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hans-Georg Frede
    • 1
  • Kellie Vaché
    • 1
  • Felipe Cisneros
    • 3
  • Lutz Breuer
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute for Landscape Ecology and Resources ManagementJustus-Liebig University GiessenGiessenGermany
  2. 2.Universidad de Cuenca, Quinta de BalzainCuencaEcuador
  3. 3.Programa para el Manejo del Agua y el Suelo (PROMAS)Universidad de CuencaCuencaEcuador

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