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Hydrological responses to defoliation and drought of an upland oak/pine forest



Hydrologic variability during 2005–2011 was observed and analyzed at an upland oak/pine forest in the New Jersey Pinelands. The forest experienced defoliation by Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar L.) in 2007, drought conditions in 2006 and a more severe drought in 2010. By using sap flux and eddy covariance measurements, stream discharge data from USGS, soil water changes, precipitation (P) and precipitation throughfall, a local water balance was derived.

Average annual canopy transpiration (EC) during 2005–2011 was 201 mm a−1 ± 47 mm a−1. A defoliation event reduced EC by 20% in 2007 compared with the 2005–2011 mean. During drought years in 2006 and 2010, stand transpiration was reduced by 8% in July 2006 and by 18% in 2010, respectively, compared with the overall July average. During July 2007, after the defoliation and subsequent reflushing of half of the leaves, EC was reduced by 25%. This stand may experience higher sensitivity to drought when recovering from a defoliation event as evidenced by the higher reduction of EC in 2010 (post-defoliation) compared with 2006 (pre-defoliation).

Stream water discharge was normalized to the watershed area by dividing outflow with the watershed area. It showed the greatest correlation with transpiration for time lags of 24 days and 219 days, suggesting hydrological connectivity on the watershed scale; stream water discharge increases when transpiration decreases, coinciding with leaf-on and leaf-off conditions. Thus, any changes in transpiration or precipitation will also alter stream water discharge and therefore water availability. Under future climate change, frequency and intensity of precipitation and episodic defoliation events may alter local water balance components in this upland oak/pine forest. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.