Stream Runoff and Nitrate Recovery Times After Forest Disturbance in the USA and Japan
To understand mechanisms of long-term hydrological and biogeochemical recovery after forest disturbance, it is important to evaluate recovery times (i.e., time scales associated with the return to baseline or predisturbance conditions) of stream runoff and nitrate concentration. Previous studies have focused on either the response of runoff or nitrate concentration, and some have specifically addressed recovery times following disturbance. However, controlling factors have not yet been elucidated. Knowing these relationships will advance our understanding of each recovery process. The objectives of this study were to explore the relationship between runoff and nitrate recovery times and identify potential factors controlling each. We acquired long-term runoff and stream water nitrate concentration data from 20 sites in the USA and Japan. We then examined the relationship between runoff and nitrate recovery times at these multiple sites and use these relationships to discuss the ecosystem dynamics following forest disturbance. Nitrate response was detected at all study sites, while runoff responses were detected at all sites with disturbance intensities greater than 75% of the catchment area. The runoff recovery time was significantly correlated with the nitrate recovery time for catchments that had a runoff response. For these catchments, hydrological recovery times were slower than nitrate recovery times. The relationship between these two recovery times suggests that forest regeneration was a common control on both recovery times. However, the faster recovery time for nitrate suggests that nitrogen was less available or less mobile in these catchments than water.