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In: EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, v. 83, no. 19, p. S155, Spring Meeting, May 28-31, 2002.

The role of fog in ecosystem hydrology: initial results from investigations using stable isotopes of water in Hawaiian cloud forests

Scholl, M.A., Gingerich S.B., Giambelluca, T.W., Nullet, M., Loope, L.L.

The role of fog drip in cloud forest ecosystems is being investigated at two sites, one each on the windward and leeward sides of East Maui, Hawaii. The study involves using the different isotopic signatures of fog (cloud water) and rain to trace fog through the forest water cycle, as well as comparing relative amounts of fog, rain, and throughfall. At each site, volume of rain, fog plus rain, and throughfall is recorded hourly. Stable isotope samples of rain, fog, soil water, stream water, and tree sap are collected monthly, and each site has a visibility sensor and weather station. The windward site, at 1950 m altitude, is enveloped by orographic clouds under trade wind conditions almost every day. This site is near the upper boundary of extensive forested mountain slopes that are a major watershed for the island. Volume data suggest that fog drip (compared to rain as measured by a standard gage) contributes substantially to the forest water budget on the windward side. Tree sap deuterium composition was consistently similar to fog composition for samples analyzed thus far, while soil water was isotopically lighter, possibly reflecting a mixture of fog with rain or shallow groundwater. The leeward site, at 1220 m, is often in a cloud bank under trade wind conditions. During the summer the major source of precipitation is cloud water; rainfall generally occurs during winter storms. Scattered cloud forest remnants persist at this site despite degradation of extensive native forest by ungulate browsing, plant invasion, and fire. Here, fog drip was a smaller proportion of the total precipitation than at the windward site, but exceeded rainfall for some precipitation events. Unlike the windward site, tree sap and soil water had similar isotopic composition. The information gained from this study underscores the importance of trees and shrubs in extracting cloud water that contributes to soil moisture, groundwater recharge, and stream flow in watersheds.


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