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Journal of Arid Land  2020, Vol. 12 Issue (5): 717-729    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-020-0070-1
Research article     
Changes in rainfall partitioning caused by the replacement of native dry forests of Lithraea molleoides by exotic plantations of Pinus elliottii in the dry Chaco mountain forests, central Argentina
Samia S CORTéS1, Juan I WHITWORTH-HULSE2,3, Eduardo L PIOVANO1, Diego E GURVICH2, Patricio N MAGLIANO3,4,*()
1Land Science Research Center (CICTERRA-CONICET) and National University of Córdoba, Av. Vélez Sarsfield 1611, X5016GCA Córdoba, Argentina
2Multidisciplinary Institute of Plant Biology, National University of Córdoba and CONICET, CC 495, X5000JJC Córdoba, Argentina
3Environmental Study Group, Institute of Applied Maths of San Luis, National University of San Luis and CONICET, Ejército de los Andes 950, D5700HHW San Luis, Argentina
4Department of Biology, Faculty of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmacy, National University of San Luis, Ejército de los Andes 950, D5700HHW San Luis, Argentina
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The replacement of native dry forests by commercial (exotic) tree plantations could generate changes in rainfall partitioning, which further affects the water cycle. In this study, we determined (i) the rainfall partitioning into interception, throughfall and stemflow, (ii) the role of rainfall event size on rainfall partitioning, (iii) the pH of water channelized as throughfall and stemflow, and (iv) the runoff in Lithraea molleoides (a native species) and Pinus elliottii (an exotic species) stands in the dry Chaco mountain forests, central Argentina. On average, interception, throughfall and stemflow accounted for 19.3%, 79.5% and 1.2% of the gross rainfall in L. molleoides stand, and 32.6%, 66.7% and 0.7% of the gross rainfall in P. elliottii stand, respectively. Amounts of interception, throughfall and stemflow presented positive linear relationships with the increment of rainfall event size for both tree species (P<0.01 in all cases). Percentages of interception, throughfall and stemflow were all related to the increment of rainfall event size, showing different patterns. With increasing rainfall event size, interception exponentially decreased, throughfall asymptotically increased and stemflow linearly increased. Both P. elliottii and L. molleoides stands presented significant differences in the pH values of water channelized as throughfall (6.3 vs. 6.7, respectively; P<0.01) and stemflow (4.5 vs. 5.8, respectively; P<0.01). Runoff occupied only 0.3% of the gross rainfall in P. elliottii stand and was zero in L. molleoides stand. Our results showed that the native species L. molleoides presented 13.6% more water reaching the topsoil (i.e., net rainfall; net rainfall=gross rainfall-interception-runoff) than the exotic species P. elliottii. This study improves our understanding of the effects of native vegetation replacement on the local water balance in the dry forest ecosystems.

Key wordsdrylands      ecohydrology      land use changes      spatial heterogeneity      water-limited environments     
Received: 22 March 2020      Published: 10 September 2020
Corresponding Authors: N MAGLIANO Patricio     E-mail:
About author: *Corresponding author: Patricio N MAGLIANO (E-mail:
Cite this article:

Samia S CORTéS, Juan I WHITWORTH-HULSE, Eduardo L PIOVANO, Diego E GURVICH, Patricio N MAGLIANO. Changes in rainfall partitioning caused by the replacement of native dry forests of Lithraea molleoides by exotic plantations of Pinus elliottii in the dry Chaco mountain forests, central Argentina. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(5): 717-729.

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Fig. 1 Location of the study site, experimental design and field measurements. (a), location of the study site in the dry Chaco mountain forests (CMF) of Córdoba Province, central Argentina; (b), photo taken at field that shows the exotic tree plantations of Pinus elliottii (behind) and the native dry forests of Lithraea molleoides (in the front; the dotted line separates the two vegetation covers); (c), schematic representation of the experimental design of one forest stand with the corresponding field measurements: stemflow (S) in trees (blue circles; n=10), gutters to measure throughfall (T) (green lines; n=3) and runoff (R) plot (orange shape; n=1); (d), measurement of stemflow; (e), measurement of throughfall; (f), measurement of runoff.
Fig. 2 Rainfall partitioning into interception, throughfall and stemflow in L. molleoides and P. elliottii stands. Vertical bar represents standard error. * means significant differences between the two species at P<0.05 level.
Fig. 3 Amounts (a, c, e) and percentages (b, d, f) of interception, throughfall and stemflow as a function of rainfall event size in L. molleoides and P. elliottii stands
Fig. 4 The pH values of water channelized as throughfall and stemflow in L. molleoides and P. elliottii stands. Vertical bar represents standard error (n=5 rainfall events). ** and *** mean significant differences between the two tree stands at P<0.01 and P<0.0001 levels, respectively.
Fig. 5 Intra-annual temporal dynamics of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) in L. molleoides and P. elliottii stands. NDVI data were derived from MODIS imagery (MOD13Q1 V6 product) and downloaded from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center ( Data were corresponded to two stand sites (each area of 250 m×250 m) where the field measurements were carried out: L. molleoides site (31°54′08′′S, 64°58′10′′W) and P. elliottii site (31°58′49′′S, 64°59′19′′W). Each circular marker represents the mean value (n=10 a) and vertical bar represents standard error.
Reference Pinus species Percentage (%)
Interception Throughfall Stemflow
Lilienfein and Wilcke (2004) P. caribaea 24.5 80.0 0.5
McKee and Carlyle-Moses (2017) P. contorta - - 1.8
Carlyle-Moses et al. (2014) P. contorta 40.6 59.4 0.0
Anderson and Pyatt (1986) P. contorta 29.0 61.0 10.0
Sadeghi et al. (2016) P. eldarica 45.0 51.0 4.0
van Stan et al. (2017) P. elliottii 35.5 64.5 0.1
Molina and del Campo (2012) P. halepensis - 55.9 1.5
Shachnovich et al. (2008) P. halepensis - - 1.6
Ji and Cai (2015) P. koraiensis 21.5 76.8 1.8
Chai et al. (2013) P. koraiensis 25.6 72.6 1.7
Domingo et al. (1994) P. nigra - 84.3 12.3
Certini et al. (1998) P. nigra - 70.0 3.7
Miller and Williams (1974) P. nigra - 66.0 3.0
Valente et al. (1997) P. pinaster 17.1 82.6 0.3
Domingo et al. (1994) P. pinaster - 85.9 1.5
Silva and Rodriguez (2001) P. pinaster 17.1 82.6 0.3
Mazza et al. (2011) P. pinea 31.5 68.5 0.2
Licata et al. (2011) P. ponderosa 19.5 74.0 3.0
Navar (2011) P. pseudostrobus - - 0.4
Silva and Rodriguez (2001) P. pseudostrobus 19.2 - 0.6
Fahey et al. (2001) P. radiata 20.0 75.0 5.0
Ayd?n et al. (2018) P. sylvestris 20.2 73.9 5.9
Cayuela et al. (2018) P. sylvestris - - 1.0
Soulsby et al. (2017) P. sylvestris 46.0 55.0 1.3
Liu et al. (2016) P. sylvestris 29.5 69.3 1.3
Cape et al. (1991) P. sylvestris 20.0 64.5 10.5
Abrahamson et al. (1998) P. taeda 9.5 84.0 3.4
This study P. elliottii 32.6 66.7 0.7
Mean 26.5 70.6 2.8
CV 37.7 14.3 118.3
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