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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-329
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-329
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 26 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 26 Jul 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Coffee and shade trees show complementary use of soil water in a traditional agroforestry ecosystem

Lyssette E. Muñoz-Villers1, Josie Geris2, Susana Alvarado-Barrientos3, Friso Holwerda1, and Todd E. Dawson4 Lyssette E. Muñoz-Villers et al.
  • 1Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad de México, México
  • 2Northern Rivers Institute, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK
  • 3Red de Ecología Funcional, Instituto de Ecología, A.C., Xalapa, Veracruz, México
  • 4Department of Integrative Biology, University of California-Berkeley, California, USA

Abstract. On a global scale, coffee has become one of the most sensitive commercial crops that will be affected by climate change. The majority of Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) grows in traditionally shaded agroforestry systems and accounts for ∼ 70 % of the coffee production worldwide. Nevertheless, the interaction between plant and soil water sources in these coffee plantations remains poorly understood. To investigate the functional response of dominant shade trees species and coffee (C. arabica var. typica) plants to different soil water availability conditions, we conducted a study during a normal and more pronounced dry season (2014 and 2017, respectively) and the 2017 wet season in a traditional agroecosystem in central Veracruz, Mexico. For the different periods, we specifically investigated the variations in water sources and root water uptake via MIXSIAR mixing models using δ18O and δ2H stable isotopes of rainfall, plant xylem and soil water, along with micrometeorological and soil moisture measurements. To further increase our mechanistic understanding about root activity, the distribution of belowground biomass and soil macronutrients were also examined and considered in the model. Results showed that, over the course of the two dry seasons investigated, all shade tree species (Lonchocarpus guatemalensis, Inga vera and Trema micrantha) relied on water sources from deeper soil layers (˃ 15 to 120 cm depth; 86 %), while the use of much shallower water sources (< 15 cm depth; 60 %) was observed in coffee plants. In addition, in these same periods, coffee water uptake was strongly influenced by antecedent precipitation conditions, whereas trees showed little sensitiveness to short-term wetness status. Our findings also showed that during the wet season coffee plants substantially increased the use of near surface water (+ 48 % from < 5 cm depth), while shade trees extended the water acquisition to much shallower soil layers (+ 32 % from < 15 cm depth) in comparison to drier periods. Despite the plasticity in soil water uptake observed among canopy trees and coffee plants, a spatial segregation of the main water source prevailed during the dry and wet seasons studied. However, more variability in plant-soil water uptake was observed among species in the rainy season when higher soil moisture conditions were present and water limitation was largely absent.

Lyssette E. Muñoz-Villers et al.
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Lyssette E. Muñoz-Villers et al.
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Short summary
Our research showed, consistently, a complementary use of soil water sources between coffee (Coffea Arabica var. typica) plants and shade tree species during the dry and wet seasons in a traditional agroforestry ecosystem in central Veracruz, Mexico. However, more variability in plant-soil water uptake was observed among species in the rainy period when higher soil moisture conditions were present and water limitation was largely absent.
Our research showed, consistently, a complementary use of soil water sources between coffee...
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