El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event reduces CO2 uptake of an Indonesian oil palm plantation
The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in 2015 was one of the strongest observed in almost 20 years and set the stage for a severe drought and the emergence of widespread fires and related smoke emission over large parts of Southeast Asia. In the tropical lowlands of Sumatra, which were heavily affected by the drought and haze, large areas of tropical rainforest have been converted into oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) plantations during the past decades. In this study, we investigate the impact of drought and smoke haze on the net ecosystem CO2 exchange, evapotranspiration, yield and surface energy budget in a commercial oil palm plantation in Jambi province (Sumatra, Indonesia) by using micrometeorological measurements, the eddy covariance method, yield data and a multiple linear regression model (MLRM). With the MLRM we identify the contribution of meteorological and environmental parameters to the net ecosystem CO2 exchange. During the initial part of the drought, when incoming shortwave radiation was elevated, net CO2 uptake increased by 50 % despite a decrease in upper-layer soil moisture by 35 %, an increase in air temperature by 10 % and a tripling of atmospheric vapour pressure deficit. Emerging smoke haze decreased incoming solar radiation by 35 % compared to non-drought conditions and diffuse radiation almost became the sole shortwave radiation flux for 2 months, resulting in a strong decrease in net CO2 uptake by 86 %. Haze conditions resulted in a complete pause of oil palm net carbon accumulation for about 1.5 months and contributed to a decline in oil palm yield by 35 %. With respect to a projected pronounced drying trend over the western Pacific during a future El Niño, our model showed that an increase in drought may stimulate net CO2 uptake, while more severe smoke haze, in combination with drought, can lead to pronounced losses in productivity and net CO2 uptake, highlighting the importance of fire prevention.