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Canopy precipitation interception in urban forests in relation to stand structure

Kermavnar, Janez, Vilhar, Urša
Urban ecosystems 2017 v.20 no.6 pp. 1373-1387
canopy, collectors, coniferous forests, conifers, ecosystem services, ecosystems, floodplains, forest stands, hardwood forests, highlands, mixed forests, planning, rain, rain intensity, species diversity, stand structure, stemflow, stormwater, throughfall, trees, urban areas, urban forests, urbanization, water interception, watersheds, Slovenia
Urban forests provide important ecosystem services. In terms of hydrological benefits, forest ecosystems in urban environments represent qualitative and quantitative filter for rainwater. We quantified the canopy interception in relation to urban forest stand structure and rainfall intensity in an urban transect of the mixed (upland) forest in the city centre, towards a riparian pine forest and a floodplain hardwood forest in the City of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Bulk precipitation in open areas and throughfall were measured with fixed rainfall collectors in each forest. Stemflow was estimated from a review of relevant literature. We found that canopy interception in selected urban forests was mainly affected by tree species composition and other stand structure variables, such as canopy cover and tree dimensions. Average annual canopy interception was highest in the mixed forest (18.0% of bulk precipitation), while the riparian pine forest had the lowest level (3.9% of bulk precipitation) and the floodplain hardwood forest had the intermediate level for interception (7.1% of bulk precipitation). The mixed forest exhibited the stand structure factors that contributed to the highest canopy interception among the studied forests: high assemblage of dominant coniferous trees, denser canopy cover and the highest growing stock. Furthermore, rainfall intensity has proven to be an important factor for the seasonal partitioning (comparing the leafed and leafless period) of canopy interception. A better understanding of precipitation interception processes in urban forests is needed to assist urban forest managing and planning, aiming at maximizing canopy interception for the mitigation of stormwater runoff and flooding in urbanized watershed.