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Disturbance and long-term patterns of rainfall and throughfall nutrient fluxes in a subtropical wet forest in Puerto Rico

Authors: 
Heartsill-Scalley, T., Scatena, F.N., Estrada, C., McDowell, W.H., Lugo, A.E.
Year: 
2 007
Source: 
Journal of Hydrology
Abstract: 
Nutrient fluxes in rainfall and throughfall were measured weekly in a mature subtropical wet forest in NE Puerto Rico over a 15-year period that included the effects of 10 named tropical storms, several prolonged dry periods, and volcanic activity in the region. Mean annual rainfall and throughfall were 3482 and 2131 mm yr(-1), respectively. Average annual rainfall and throughfall fluxes of K, Ca, Mg, Cl, Na, and SO4-S were similar but somewhat larger than those reported for most tropical forests. Rainfall inputs of nitrogen were comparatively tow and reflect the relative isolation of the airshed. More constituents had seasonal differences in rainfall fluxes (6 out of 12) than throughfall fluxes (4 out of 12) and all volume weighted throughfall enrichment ratios calculated for the 15-year period were greater than one. However, median weekly enrichment ratios were less than 1 for sea salts and dissolved organic carbon, between 1 and 2 for Mg, Ca, SiO2 and SO4-S, and greater than 10 for NH4-N, PO4-P, and K. Droughts tended to reduce enrichment ratios of cations and sea-salts, but increased enrichment ratios of NH4-N, PO4-P, and K. In the weeks following hurricanes and tropical storms, relative throughfall tended to be higher and enrichment ratios tended to be lower. Saharan dust and the activity of Caribbean volcanoes can also be detected in the time series. Nevertheless, the impacts of particular events are variable and modified by the magnitude of the event, the pre- and post-event rainfall, and the time since the previous event. Rainfall, throughfall, rainfall pH, and rainfall fluxes of seven constituents had decreasing trends over the 15-year period. However, these decreases were small, less than inter-annual and annual variations, and not considered to be ecologically significant. These tong-term observations indicate that physical and biological processes associated with water passing through the canopy act to buffer internal nutrient cycles from inter-annual and seasonal variations in rainfall inputs. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Department of Earth and Environmental Science / University of Pennsylvania, 251 Hayden Hall, 240 South 33rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6316