Influence of watershed-climate interactions on stream temperature, sediment yield, and metabolism along a land use intensity gradient in Indonesian Borneo



Oil palm plantation expansion into tropical forests may alter physical and biogeochemical inputs to streams, thereby changing hydrological function. In West Kalimantan, Indonesia, we assessed streams draining watersheds characterized by five land uses: intact forest, logged forest, mixed agroforest, and young (<3 years) and mature (>10 years) oil palm plantation. We quantified suspended sediments, stream temperature, and metabolism using high-frequency submersible sonde measurements during month-long intervals between 2009 and 2012. Streams draining oil palm plantations had markedly higher sediment concentrations and yields, and stream temperatures, compared to other streams. Mean sediment concentrations were fourfold to 550-fold greater in young oil palm than in all other streams and remained elevated even under base flow conditions. After controlling for precipitation, the mature oil palm stream exhibited significantly greater sediment yield than other streams. Young and mature oil palm streams were 3.9°C and 3.0°C warmer than the intact forest stream (25°C). Across all streams, base flow periods were significantly warmer than times of stormflow, and these differences were especially large in oil palm catchments. Ecosystem respiration rates were also influenced by low precipitation. During an El Niño–Southern Oscillation-associated drought, the mature oil palm stream consumed a maximum 21 g O2 m−2 d−1 in ecosystem respiration, in contrast with 2.8 ± 3.1 g O2 m−2 d−1 during nondrought sampling. Given that 23% of Kalimantan's land area is occupied by watersheds similar to those studied here, our findings inform potential hydrologic outcomes of regional periodic drought coupled with continued oil palm plantation expansion.