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Inundation dynamics in seasonally dry floodplain forests in southeastern Brazil


Abstract

Floodplains are one of the most threatened ecosystems. Even though the vegetation composition in floodplain forests is expected to reflect the variation in groundwater levels and flood duration and frequency, there is little field data on the inundation dynamics (e.g., the variability in flood duration and flood frequency), especially for the understudied seasonally dry tropics. This limits our understanding of these ecosystems and the mechanisms that cause the flooding. We, therefore, investigated six floodplain forests in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil for 1.5 years (two wet seasons): Capivari, Jacaré, and Aiuruoca in the Rio Grande basin, and Jequitaí, Verde Grande, and Carinhanha in the São Francisco basin. These locations span a range of climates (humid subtropical to seasonal tropical) and biomes (Atlantic forest to Caatinga). At each location, we continuously measured water levels in five geomorphologically distinct eco‐units: marginal levee, lower terrace, higher terrace, lower plain, and higher plain, providing a unique hydrological dataset for these understudied regions. The levees and terraces were flooded for longer periods than the plains. Inundation of the terraces lasted around 40 days per year. The levees in the Rio Grande basin were flooded for shorter durations. In the São Francisco basin, the flooding of the levees lasted longer and the water level regime of the levees was more similar to that of the terraces. In the Rio Grande basin, flooding was most likely caused by rising groundwater levels (i.e., “flow pulse”) and flood pulses that caused overbank flooding. In the São Francisco basin, inundation was most likely caused by overbank flooding (i.e., “flood pulse”). These findings highlight the large variation in inundation dynamics across floodplain forests and are relevant to predict the impacts of changes in the flood regime due to climate change and other anthropogenic changes on floodplain forest functioning.

Abstract

Floodplains are one of the most threatened ecosystems. Even though the vegetation composition in floodplain forests is expected to reflect the variation in groundwater levels and flood duration and frequency, there is little field data on the inundation dynamics (e.g., the variability in flood duration and flood frequency), especially for the understudied seasonally dry tropics. This limits our understanding of these ecosystems and the mechanisms that cause the flooding. We, therefore, investigated six floodplain forests in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil for 1.5 years (two wet seasons): Capivari, Jacaré, and Aiuruoca in the Rio Grande basin, and Jequitaí, Verde Grande, and Carinhanha in the São Francisco basin. These locations span a range of climates (humid subtropical to seasonal tropical) and biomes (Atlantic forest to Caatinga). At each location, we continuously measured water levels in five geomorphologically distinct eco‐units: marginal levee, lower terrace, higher terrace, lower plain, and higher plain, providing a unique hydrological dataset for these understudied regions. The levees and terraces were flooded for longer periods than the plains. Inundation of the terraces lasted around 40 days per year. The levees in the Rio Grande basin were flooded for shorter durations. In the São Francisco basin, the flooding of the levees lasted longer and the water level regime of the levees was more similar to that of the terraces. In the Rio Grande basin, flooding was most likely caused by rising groundwater levels (i.e., “flow pulse”) and flood pulses that caused overbank flooding. In the São Francisco basin, inundation was most likely caused by overbank flooding (i.e., “flood pulse”). These findings highlight the large variation in inundation dynamics across floodplain forests and are relevant to predict the impacts of changes in the flood regime due to climate change and other anthropogenic changes on floodplain forest functioning.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:1 June 2024
Deposited On:03 Jul 2024 14:12
Last Modified:03 Jul 2024 14:20
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0885-6087
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.15203
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID186303
  • : Project TitleWater level regimes and tropical forest functioning in floodplains and headwater springs (WatForFun)
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)