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Soil water percolation and nutrient fluxes as a function of topographical, seasonal and soil texture variation in Central Amazonia, Brazil

Publication Type
Journal Name
Hydrological Processes
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 20

Understanding soil water dynamics and transport of nutrients is challenging in tropical rainforests due to the uniqueness of several properties related to soils, vegetation and seasonality that make relating patterns found in temperate environments to tropical sites difficult. We address the need for better edaphic characterization in tropical environments by investigating soil water percolation rates and chemistry across topographic, soil texture and seasonal gradients in a mature tropical rainforest in Central Amazonia, Brazil. We utilized a passive wick flux meter (e.g., drainage lysimeter) to directly measure real-time percolation fluxes at 60-cm depth, and to sample a suite of chemical species across plateau, slope and valley topographic positions. We found percolation flux volume and chemical exports generally increase with decreasing elevation and clay content, which was lowest in the valley. Daily percolation flux was observed to be 2.39 ± 0.44 in plateau, 3.01 ± 0.50 in slope and 6.16 ± 0.83 mm in valley. Most solutes were present in small amounts of <1 mg L−1, such as PO₄3−, Fe2+/Fe3+ and Mn2+; however, NO3− concentrations were >20 mg L−1, even exceeding 100 mg L−1 in the valley. Based on additional isotopic analysis, we speculate high NO3− concentrations are partially an artefact of root decomposition following installation of the flux meters. The empirical relationships we show among percolation volume and nutrient exports under varying topographies and soil textures can improve Earth System Model performance by better constraining ecohydrological relationships to nutrient fluxes, which can in-turn better illuminate the important factors that govern their behaviour.