Effect of forest thinning on hydrologic nitrate exports from a N-saturated plantation

Abstract

Although several studies have assessed the effects of thinning on water quality, including nitrogen (N) exports, few have examined N-saturated plantations. This study assessed the short-term effect of thinning on N exports from a N-saturated plantation forest in northern Kyushu, western Japan, that was thinned (43% of basal area) during January–March 2012. Water levels at the gauging station were continually measured, and stream-water baseflow and stormflow samples were collected before (2011) and after (2013) forest thinning. Annual precipitation before (2469 mm) and after (2418 mm) forest thinning differed little, and annual water discharge after thinning (1641 mm) was similar to that before thinning (1609 mm). However, direct flow during stormflow periods was higher after thinning (260 mm) than before (153 mm). The concentrations of major ions in stream water did not differ before and after thinning. As a result, the high annual dissolved inorganic N (DIN) exports differed little before (35.8 kg N ha−1 a−1) and after (36.5 kg N ha−1 a−1) forest thinning. DIN exports during stormflow periods were slightly higher after (12.2 kg N ha−1 a−1) than before thinning (10.5 kg N ha−1 a−1) and were proportional to the increased direct flow after thinning (561 mm after vs. 470 mm before thinning). We concluded that thinning does not affect annual N exports from the N-saturated plantation forest, but it can increase the proportion of N exported during stormflow periods in proportion to increased water volume of direct flow after thinning.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Y. Endo, T. Sano, and K. Nagase (Tottori University) for handling water samples. We thank members of the Eco-hydrology Laboratory, Kasuya Research Forest (Kyushu University) especially M. Komatsu, H. Matsuda, S. Yunohara, and H. Sun for help with fieldwork. We are grateful to M. Watanabe of the Kahanzan Forest Owner’s Cooperative for the thinning operation. The cost of publication was supported in part by a research grant for Young Investigators of the Faculty of Agriculture, Kyushu University.

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Correspondence to Masaaki Chiwa.

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Project funding: The work was supported by the Project “Development of Innovative Technologies for Increasing in Watershed Runoff and Improving River Environment by the Management Practice of Devastated Forest Plantation” funded by Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (CREST) of the Japan Science and Technology (JST) and by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (17H03833).

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Corresponding editor: Tao Xu.

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Chiwa, M., Haga, H., Kasahara, T. et al. Effect of forest thinning on hydrologic nitrate exports from a N-saturated plantation. J. For. Res. 31, 387–395 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11676-018-0784-5

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Keywords

  • Thinning
  • Nitrogen saturation
  • Nitrogen export
  • Direct flow
  • Baseflow