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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 02 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 02 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).

Neighbourhood and stand structure affect stemflow generation in a heterogeneous deciduous temperate forest

Johanna C. Metzger1,2, Jens Schumacher3, Markus Lange2, and Anke Hildebrandt1,2,4,5 Johanna C. Metzger et al.
  • 1Institute of Geosciences, Friedrich Schiller University, Burgweg 11, 07749 Jena, Germany
  • 2Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Hans-Knöll-Straße 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
  • 3Institute of Mathematics, Friedrich Schiller University, Ernst-Abbe-Platz 2, 07743 Jena, Germany
  • 4Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research–UFZ, Permoserstraße 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
  • 5German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

Abstract. Although stemflow oftentimes represents only a small portion of net precipitation in forests, it creates hot spots of water input that can affect subsurface stormflow dynamics. The distribution of stemflow over different trees is assumed to be temporally stable, yet often unknown. Therefore, it is essential to know the systematic factors driving stemflow patterns. Several drivers have been identified in the past, mainly related to tree traits. Less attention has yet been paid to tree neighbourhood interactions impacting stemflow generation and creating stand patches with enhanced or reduced stemflow. We recorded stemflow in 26 precipitation events on 65 trees, growing in 11 subplots (100 m² each), in a temperate mixed beech forest in the Hainich National Park, Germany. We used linear mixed effects models to investigate how traits of individual trees (tree size, tree species, number of neighbouring trees, their basal area, and their relative height) affect stemflow and how stemflow is affected by stand properties (stand, biomass and diversity metrics). As expected, stemflow increased with event and tree size. Stemflow was highly variable at both tree and subplot scale. Especially in large rainfall events (> 10 mm), tree/subplot ranking was almost identical between events, probably due to fully developed flow paths bringing out the full stemflow potential for each tree. Neighbourhood and stand structure were increasingly important with event size (15 % of fixed effects on the tree scale, ca. 65 % on the subplot scale for large events). Subplot scale stemflow was especially enhanced by a higher proportion of woody surface, expressed by a high number of trees, low leaf area and a large maximum tree size. Simpson’s diversity index contributed positively to stemflow yield in large events, probably by allowing more efficient space occupation. Also, our models suggest that neighbourhood impacts individual tree morphology, which may additionally increase stemflow in dense, species diverse neighbourhoods. Unexpectedly, rain shading within the canopy had little impact on stemflow spatial variation. Overall, we find a strong cross-scale temporal stability. Tree size and tree density were the main drivers, independently increasing stemflow, creating forest patches with strongly enhanced or reduced stemflow. Our results show that, besides tree metrics, also forest structure and potentially diversity affect stemflow patterns and associated potentially biogeochemical hotspots.

Johanna C. Metzger et al.
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Johanna C. Metzger et al.
Johanna C. Metzger et al.
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Short summary
Variation in stemflow (rain water running down the stem) enhances the formation of flow hotspots at the forest floor. Investigating drivers based on detailed measurements, we find that forest structure affects stemflow, both for tree individuals and small communities. Densely packed forest patches received more stemflow, due to higher proportion of woody structure and canopy morphology adjustments, of a kind that increases potential for flow path generation connecting crowns and soil.
Variation in stemflow (rain water running down the stem) enhances the formation of flow hotspots...