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Keywords:

  • forest hydrology;
  • forest management;
  • interception;
  • stemflow;
  • evapotranspiration;
  • runoff

Abstract

Overexploitation of forest resources in China has caused serious concerns over its negative impacts on water resources, biodiversity, soil erosion, wildlife habitat and community stability. One key concern is the impact of forestry practices on hydrological processes, particularly the effect of forest harvest on water quality and quantity. Since the mid 1980s, a series of scientific studies on forest hydrology have been initiated in major types of forest across the country, including Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis), Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata), oak (Quercus mongolica), larch (Larix gmelinii), faber fir (Abies fabri), Chinese pine (Pinus tabulaeformis), armand pine (Pinus arandi), birch (Betula platyphylla) and some tropical forests. These studies measured rainfall interception, streamflow, evapotranspiration and impacts of forest management (clearcutting and reforestation). This paper reviews key findings from these forest hydrological studies conducted over the past 20 years in China.

Forest canopy interception rates varied from 15 to 30% of total rainfall, depending on forest canopy and rainfall characteristics. Stemflow is generally a small percentage (<5%) of total rainfall, but it accounts for 15% in the oak forest in northeast China. The high amounts of stemflow, as well as higher amounts of nutrients contained in stemflow, may allow oak trees to adapt to a dry and nutrient-poor environment. Evapotranspiration was a significant component of the water budget in these Chinese forests studied, ranging from 80–90% of total rainfall in the northern temperate forests to 40–50% in the southern tropical forests. Forests substantially reduced surface runoff and erosion. However, no consistent response on total streamflows was observed. The reason for the inconsistency may be due to complexities of streamflow processes and the utilization of different methodologies applied at the various spatial scales. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.