Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 397–413 | Cite as

Spatio-temporal dynamics of gross rainfall partitioning and nutrient fluxes in shaded-cocoa (Theobroma cocoa) systems in a tropical semi-deciduous forest

  • Evans K. DawoeEmail author
  • Victor R. Barnes
  • Samuel K. Oppong


Land-use change from forest to cocoa agroforestry and other tree-based farming systems alters the structure of forest stands and influences the magnitude of canopy water fluxes and subsequent bio-element inputs to the forest floor. The partitioning of incident rainfall (IR) into throughfall (TF), stemflow (SF) and canopy interception loss (ILC) and their associated nutrient element concentrations and fluxes was examined along a replicated chrono-sequence: forest, 3, 15 and 30-year-old smallholder shaded-cocoa systems in Ashanti Region, Ghana. Mean annual precipitation during the 2-year observational period (2007 and 2008) was 1376.2 ± 93.8 mm. TF contributed between 76.5–90.4%, and SF between 1.4–1.7% of the annual IR to the forest floor. There were significant differences in IR, TF and SF chemistry. While TF and SF were enriched in phosphorus (1.33–5.67-fold), potassium (1.1–5.69 fold), calcium (1.35–2.65 fold) and magnesium (1.4–2.68 fold) relative to IR, total N (NH4 ++NO3 ) declined (0.5–0.91) of IR values in TF and SF in forest and shaded cocoa systems. Incident rainfall was significantly more acidic than TF and SF in both forest and shaded-cocoa systems. Mean annual total N, P, K, Ca and Mg inputs to the forest floor through IR were 5.7, 0.14, 13.6, 9.43 and 5.6 kg ha−1year−1 respectively. Though an important source of available nutrients for plant growth, incident rainfall provides only a small percentage of the annual nutrient requirements. With declining soil fertility and pervasive low cocoa yields, possible effects of the reported nutrient fluxes on nutrient budgets in cocoa systems merit further investigation. Against the background of increased TF and decreased ILC following forest conversion to shaded-cocoa, it is also recommended that more studies be carried out on rainfall partitioning and its impact on ground water recharge as a way of establishing its influence on the availability of moisture for agriculture in these systems.


Throughfall Stemflow Incident rainfall Canopy interception loss Nutrient inputs Element concentrations 



This study was made possible with support from the Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Kumasi, the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund (TALIF), and the Research and Conference Grant, KNUST. We are grateful to cocoa farmers in the Atwima Nwabiagya District for allowing their fields to be used. Thanks also to staff of the Soil Research Institute of Ghana Kumasi for facilitating the analysis of soil and water samples. Our gratitude goes to Ing. George Ashiagbor for generating the district map indicating the locations of the study communities. We would also like to acknowledge the constructive comments by three anonymous journal reviewers of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Renewable Natural ResourcesKwame Nkrumah University of Science and TechnologyKumasiGhana

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