Modeling water, carbon, and nitrogen dynamics for two drained pine plantations under intensive management practices
This paper reports results of a study to test the reliability of the DRAINMOD-FOREST model for predicting water, soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics in intensively managed forests. The study site, two adjacent loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) plantations (referred as D2 and D3), are located in the coastal plain of North Carolina, USA. Controlled drainage (with weir and orifice) and various silvicultural practices, including nitrogen (N) fertilizer application, thinning, harvesting, bedding, and replanting, were conducted on the study site. Continuous collection of hydrological and water quality data (1988–2008) were used for model evaluation. Comparison between predicted and measured hydrologic variables showed that the model accurately predicted long-term subsurface drainage dynamics and water table fluctuations in both loblolly pine plantations. Predicted mean and standard deviation of annual drainage matched measured values very well: 431 ± 217 vs. 436 ± 231 mm for D2 site and 384 ± 152 vs. 386 ± 160 mm for D3 site. Nash–Sutcliffe coefficients (NSE) were above 0.9 for drainage predictions on annual and monthly basis and above 0.86 for predictions of daily water table fluctuations. Compared to measurements in other similar studies, the model also reasonably estimated long-term dynamics of organic matter pools on forest floor and in forest soil. Predicted mean and standard deviation of annual nitrate exports were comparable to measured values: 1.6 ± 1.3 vs. 1.5 ± 1.5 kg ha-1 for D2 site, and 1.4 ± 1.3 vs. 1.3 ± 1.1 kg ha-1 for D3 site, respectively. Predicted nitrate export dynamics were also in excellent agreement with field measurements as indicated by NSE above 0.90 and 0.84 on annual and monthly bases, respectively. The model, thus successfully tested, was applied to predicted hydrological and biogeochemical responses to drainage water management and silvicultural practices. Specifically, the model predicted reduced rainfall interception and ET after clear cutting, both of which led to increased water yield and elevated water table, as expected. The model also captured temporary changes in nitrogen transformations following forest harvesting, including increased mineralization, nitrification, denitrification, and decreased plant uptake. Overall, this study demonstrated that DRAINMOD-FOREST can predict water, C and N dynamics in drained pine forests under intensive management practices.