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Changes in rainfall partitioning caused by the replacement of native dry forests of Lithraea molleoides by exotic plantations of Pinus elliottii in the dry Chaco mountain forests, central Argentina

Abstract

The replacement of native dry forests by commercial (exotic) tree plantations could generate changes in rainfall partitioning, which further affects the water cycle. In this study, we determined (i) the rainfall partitioning into interception, throughfall and stemflow, (ii) the role of rainfall event size on rainfall partitioning, (iii) the pH of water channelized as throughfall and stemflow, and (iv) the runoff in Lithraea molleoides (a native species) and Pinus elliottii (an exotic species) stands in the dry Chaco mountain forests, central Argentina. On average, interception, throughfall and stemflow accounted for 19.3%, 79.5% and 1.2% of the gross rainfall in L. molleoides stand, and 32.6%, 66.7% and 0.7% of the gross rainfall in P. elliottii stand, respectively. Amounts of interception, throughfall and stemflow presented positive linear relationships with the increment of rainfall event size for both tree species (P<0.01 in all cases). Percentages of interception, throughfall and stemflow were all related to the increment of rainfall event size, showing different patterns. With increasing rainfall event size, interception exponentially decreased, throughfall asymptotically increased and stemflow linearly increased. Both P. elliottii and L. molleoides stands presented significant differences in the pH values of water channelized as throughfall (6.3 vs. 6.7, respectively; P<0.01) and stemflow (4.5 vs. 5.8, respectively; P<0.01). Runoff occupied only 0.3% of the gross rainfall in P. elliottii stand and was zero in L. molleoides stand. Our results showed that the native species L. molleoides presented 13.6% more water reaching the topsoil (i.e., net rainfall; net rainfall=gross rainfall—interception—runoff) than the exotic species P. elliottii. This study improves our understanding of the effects of native vegetation replacement on the local water balance in the dry forest ecosystems.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the Secretary of Science and Technology of the National University of Córdoba (2014-2017) and supported by a PhD grant from the National Research Council Scientific and Technical (Dr. Samia CORTÉS). We thank to Dr. Eduardo KRUSE, Dr. Mónica BLARASIN and Dr. Marcela CIOCCALE for their valuable suggestions. We also thank to Mr. Lisandro FERNÁNDEZ and Mr. Mauricio ROSAS for their help with field measurements, and Mr. George CASTELLANOS for his help with satellite analysis.

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Cortés, S.S., Whitworth-Hulse, J.I., Piovano, E.L. et al. Changes in rainfall partitioning caused by the replacement of native dry forests of Lithraea molleoides by exotic plantations of Pinus elliottii in the dry Chaco mountain forests, central Argentina. J. Arid Land 12, 717–729 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-020-0070-1

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Keywords

  • drylands
  • ecohydrology
  • land use changes
  • spatial heterogeneity
  • water-limited environments