Transpiration on the rebound in lowland Sumatra

A. Röll*, F. Niu, A. Meijide, J. Ahongshangbam, M. Ehbrecht, T. Guillaume, D. Gunawan, A. Hardanto, Hendrayanto, D. Hertel, M. M. Kotowska, H. Kreft, Y. Kuzyakov, C. Leuschner, M. Nomura, A. Polle, K. Rembold, J. Sahner, D. Seidel, D. C. ZempA. Knohl, D. Hölscher

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    Following large-scale conversion of rainforest, rubber and oil palm plantations dominate lowland Sumatra (Indonesia)and other parts of South East Asia today, with potentially far-reaching ecohydrological consequences. We assessed how such land-use change affects plant transpiration by sap flux measurements at 42 sites in selectively logged rainforests, agroforests and rubber and oil palm monoculture plantations in the lowlands of Sumatra. Site-to-site variability in stand-scale transpiration and tree-level water use were explained by stand structure, productivity, soil properties and plantation age. Along a land-use change trajectory forest-rubber-oil palm, time-averaged transpiration decreases by 43 ± 11% from forest to rubber monoculture plantations, but rebounds with conversion to smallholder oil palm plantations. We uncovered that particularly commercial, intensive oil palm cultivation leads to high transpiration (827 ± 77 mm yr−1), substantially surpassing rates at our forest sites (589 ± 52 mm yr−1). Compared to smallholder oil palm, land-use intensification leads to 1.7-times higher transpiration in commercial plantations. Combined with severe soil degradation, the high transpiration may cause periodical water scarcity for humans in oil palm-dominated landscapes. As oil palm is projected to further expand, severe shifts in water cycling after land-cover change and water scarcity due to land-use intensification may become more widespread.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)160-171
    Number of pages12
    JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019


    • Forest
    • Jungle rubber
    • Land-cover change
    • Land-use intensification
    • Oil palm
    • Rubber plantation
    • Sap flux
    • Tropics
    • Water use


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