• catchment;
  • eddy covariance;
  • rain forest;
  • runoff

[1] Whether rubber plantations have the role of water pumps in tropical Southeast Asia is under active debate. Fifteen years (1994–2008) of paired catchments water observation data and one year paired eddy covariance water flux data in primary tropical rain forest and tropical rubber plantation was used to clarify how rubber plantation affects local water resources of Xishuangbanna, China. Both catchment water observations and direct eddy covariance estimates indicates that more water was evapotranspired from rubber plantation (1137 mm based on catchment water balance, 1125 mm based on eddy covariance) than from the rain forest (969 mm based on catchment water balance, 927 mm based on eddy covariance). Soil water storage during the rainy season is not sufficient to maintain such high evapotranspiration rates, resulting in zero flow and water shortages during the dry season in the rubber plantation. Therefore, this study supports the idea that rubber plantations act as water pumps as suggested by local inhabitants.