Tropical Montane Cloud Forests: Hydrometeorological variability in three neighbouring catchments with different forest cover

Beatriz Ramirez Correal*, Adriaan J. Teuling, Laurens Ganzeveld, Zita Hegger, Rik Leemans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mountain areas are characterized by a large heterogeneity in hydrological and meteorological conditions. This heterogeneity is currently poorly represented by gauging networks and by the coarse scale of global and regional climate and hydrological models. Tropical Montane Cloud Forests (TMCFs) are found in a narrow elevation range and are characterized by persistent fog. Their water balance depends on local and upwind temperatures and moisture, therefore, changes in these parameters will alter TMCF hydrology. Until recently the hydrological functioning of TMCFs was mainly studied in coastal regions, while continental TMCFs were largely ignored. This study contributes to fill this gap by focusing on a TMCF which is located on the northern eastern Andes at an elevation of 1550–2300 m asl, in the Orinoco river basin highlands. In this study, we describe the spatial and seasonal meteorological variability, analyse the corresponding catchment hydrological response to different land cover, and perform a sensitivity analysis on uncertainties related to rainfall interpolation, catchment area estimation and streamflow measurements. Hydro-meteorological measurements, including hourly solar radiation, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, precipitation, soil moisture and streamflow, were collected from June 2013 to May 2014 at three gauged neighbouring catchments with contrasting TMCF/grassland cover and less than 250 m elevation difference. We found wetter and less seasonally contrasting conditions at higher elevations, indicating a positive relation between elevation and fog or rainfall persistence. This pattern is similar to that of other eastern Andean TMCFs, however, the study site had higher wet season rainfall and lower dry season rainfall suggesting that upwind contrasts in land cover and moisture can influence the meteorological conditions at eastern Andean TMCFs. Contrasting streamflow dynamics between the studied catchments reflect the overall system response as a function of the catchments’ elevation and land cover. The forested catchment, located at the higher elevations, had the highest seasonal streamflows. During the wet season, different land covers at the lower elevations were important in defining the streamflow responses between the deforested catchment and the catchment with intermediate forest cover. Streamflows were higher and the rainfall-runoff responses were faster in the deforested catchment than in the intermediate forest cover catchment. During the dry season, the catchments’ elevation defined streamflows due to higher water inputs and lower evaporative demand at the higher elevations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-167
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume552
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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Keywords

  • Andean catchments
  • Continental Tropical Montane Cloud Forests
  • Elevation gradients
  • Orinoco river basin
  • Streamflow uncertainty
  • Water balance

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