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Vegetation impact on stream chemical fluxes: Mule Hole watershed (South India)

Abstract : The proportion of chemical elements passing through vegetation prior to being exported in a stream was quantified for a forested tropical watershed(Mule Hole, South India) using an extensive hydrological and geochemical monitoring at several scales. First, a solute annual mass balance was established at the scale of the soil-plant profile for assessing the contribution of canopy interaction and litter decay to the solute fluxes of soil inputs (overland flow) and soil outputs (pore water flow as seepages). Second, based on the respective contributions of overland flow and seepages to the stream flow as estimated by a hydrological lumped model, we assigned the proportion of chemical elements in the stream that transited through the vegetation at both flood event (End Member Mixing Analysis) and seasonal scales. At the scale of the 1D soil-plant profile, leaching from the canopy constituted the main source of K above the ground surface. Litter decay was the main source of Si, whereas alkalinity, Ca and Mg originated in the same proportions from both sources. The contribution of vegetation was negligible for Na. Within the soil, all elements but Na were removed from the pore water in proportions varying from 20% for Cl to 95% for K: The soil output fluxes corresponded to a residual fraction of the infiltration fluxes. The behavior of K, Cl, Ca and Mg in the soil-plant profile can be explained by internal cycling, as their soil output fluxes were similar to the atmospheric inputs. Na was released from soils as a result of Na-plagioclase weathering and accompanied by additional release of Si. Concentration of soil pore water by evapotranspiration might limit the chemical weathering in the soil. Overall, the solute K, Ca, Mg, alkalinity and Si fluxes associated with the vegetation turnover within the small experimental watershed represented 10-15 times the solute fluxes exported by the stream, of which 83-97% transited through the vegetation. One important finding is that alkalinity and Si fluxes at the outlet were not linked to the "current weathering" of silicates in this watershed. These results highlight the dual effect of the vegetation cover on the solute fluxes exported from the watershed: On one hand the runoff was limited by evapotranspiration and represented only 10% of the annual rainfall, while on the other hand, 80-90% of the overall solute flux exported by the stream transited through the vegetation. The approach combining geochemical monitoring and accurate knowledge of the watershed hydrological budget provided detailed understanding of several effects of vegetation on stream fluxes: (1) evapotranspiration (limiting), (2) vertical transfer through vegetation from vadose zone to ground surface (enhancing) and (3) redistribution by throughfalls and litter decay. It provides a good basis for calibrating geochemical models and more precisely assessing the role of vegetation on soil processes.
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J. Riotte, J.C. Marechal, S. Audry, C. Kumar, J.P. Bedimo, et al.. Vegetation impact on stream chemical fluxes: Mule Hole watershed (South India). Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Elsevier, 2014, 145, pp.116-138. ⟨10.1016/j.gca.2014.09.015⟩. ⟨hal-01209252⟩



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