Evapotranspiration of tropical peat swamp forests.Glob Chang Biol 2015; 21(5):1914-27GC
In Southeast Asia, peatland is widely distributed and has accumulated a massive amount of soil carbon, coexisting with peat swamp forest (PSF). The peatland, however, has been rapidly degraded by deforestation, fires, and drainage for the last two decades. Such disturbances change hydrological conditions, typically groundwater level (GWL), and accelerate oxidative peat decomposition. Evapotranspiration (ET) is a major determinant of GWL, whereas information on the ET of PSF is limited. Therefore, we measured ET using the eddy covariance technique for 4-6 years between 2002 and 2009, including El Niño and La Niña events, at three sites in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The sites were different in disturbance degree: a PSF with little drainage (UF), a heavily drained PSF (DF), and a drained burnt ex-PSF (DB); GWL was significantly lowered at DF, especially in the dry season. The ET showed a clear seasonal variation with a peak in the mid-dry season and a large decrease in the late dry season, mainly following seasonal variation in net radiation (Rn). The Rn drastically decreased with dense smoke from peat fires in the late dry season. Annual ET forced to close energy balance for 4 years was 1636 ± 53, 1553 ± 117, and 1374 ± 75 mm yr(-1) (mean ± 1 standard deviation), respectively, at UF, DF, and DB. The undrained PSF (UF) had high and rather stable annual ET, independently of El Niño and La Niña events, in comparison with other tropical rainforests. The minimum monthly-mean GWL explained 80% of interannual variation in ET for the forest sites (UF and DF); the positive relationship between ET and GWL indicates that drainage by a canal decreased ET at DF through lowering GWL. In addition, ET was decreased by 16% at DB in comparison with UF chiefly because of vegetation loss through fires.