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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 05 Nov 2019

Submitted as: research article | 05 Nov 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).

Rainfall interception and redistribution by a common North American understory and pasture forb, Eupatorium capillifolium (Lam. dogfennel)

D. Alex R. Gordon1, Miriam Coenders-Gerrits2, Brent A. Sellers3,4, S. M. Moein Sadeghi5, and John T. Van Stan II6 D. Alex R. Gordon et al.
  • 1Geology & Geography, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, USA
  • 2Delft University of Technology, Water Resources Section, Stevinweg 1, 2628 CN Delft, The Netherlands
  • 3Agronomy, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA
  • 4Range Cattle Research & Education Center, Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences, FL, USA
  • 5Department of Forestry & Forest Economics, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran
  • 6Applied Coastal Research Lab, Georgia Southern University, Savannah, GA, USA

Abstract. In vegetated landscapes, rain must pass through plant canopies and litter to enter soils. As a result, some rainwater is returned to the atmosphere (i.e., interception, I) and the remainder is partitioned into a canopy (and gap) drip flux (i.e., throughfall) or drained down the stem (i.e., stemflow). Current theoretical and numerical modelling frameworks for this process are near-exclusively based on data from woody overstory plants. However, herbaceous plants often populate the understory and are the primary cover for important ecosystems (e.g., grasslands and croplands). This study investigates how overstory throughfall (PT,o) is partitioned into understory I, throughfall (PT) and stemflow (PS) by a dominant forb in disturbed urban forests (as well as grass- and pasturelands), Eupatorium capillifolium (Lam., dogfennel). Dogfennel density at the site was 56,770 stems ha−1, enabling water storage capacities for leaves and stems of 0.90 ± 0.04 mm and 0.43 ± 0.02 mm, respectively. Median PT:PT,o was 72 % (59–91 % interquartile range). PS data were highly skewed, where mean PS:PT,o was 36.8 %, but the median was 7.6 % (2.8 %–27.2 % interquartile range). PS variability (n = 30 plants) was high (CV > 200 %) and may be explained by spatiotemporal patterns in PT,o (since no plant structural factors explained the variability). Mixed dew/light rain events occurred during the study period, revealing that dogfennel can capture and drain dew to their stem base as PS. Dew-induced PS may help explain dogfennel's improved invasion efficacy during droughts (as it tends to be one of the most problematic weeds in the southeastern US's improved grazing systems). Overall, dogfennel's rainfall partitioning differed markedly from the site's overstory trees (Pinus palustris), and a synthesis of current literature suggests that these differences may exist across vegetated ecosystems. Thus, more research on herbaceous plant canopy interactions with precipitation is merited.

D. Alex R. Gordon et al.
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D. Alex R. Gordon et al.
D. Alex R. Gordon et al.
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Short summary
Where plants exist, rain must pass through their canopies to reach soils. We studied how rain interacts with dogfennel – a highly problematic weed that is abundant in pastures, grasslands, rangelands, urban forests, and along highways. Dogfennels evaporated large portions (~1/5) of rain & drained significant (at times > 25 %) rain (& dew) down their stems to their roots (via stemflow). These results may explain how dogfennel survives & even invades managed landscapes during extended droughts.
Where plants exist, rain must pass through their canopies to reach soils. We studied how rain...