Deep soil water dynamics in an undisturbed primary forest in central Amazonia: Differences between normal years and the 2005 drought

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Understanding how Amazonian rainforests deal with extended droughts is critical in the face of changing climate. This research analyze the physical properties and the soil water dynamics of a deep soil profile in an area of primary forest in central Amazonia to elucidate these processes under drought and nondrought conditions. Physical soil properties derived from soil cores exhibited a distinctive layer between 480 and 880 cm deep, characterized by higher microporosity and low plant water availability. In situ soil moisture measurements collected during the period from January 2003 through February 2006 and for depths ranging from 10 to 1,430 cm suggest that, in the study site, the top 480 cm of the soil profile satisfied most of the transpirational demands in normal climatological years. However, during exceptionally dry periods, such as the 2005 drought, root uptake occurs below 480 cm. As concluded by previous studies, most of the uptake is concentrated in the first meter of the soil profile: More than 40% of the total demand for transpiration is supplied by the top meter of soil. Because deep root uptake occurred at greater depths than normal during the 2005 drought, our results suggest that this is a fundamental mechanism to cope with prolonged droughts.

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