Transpiration by established trees could increase the efficiency of stormwater control measures.

Affiliation

School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Burnley, VIC, 3121, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

Evapotranspiration is an important aspect of the hydrological cycle in natural landscapes. In cities, evapotranspiration is typically limited by reduced vegetation and extensive impervious surfaces. Stormwater control measures (SCMs) seek, among other objectives, to move the urban hydrological cycle towards pre-development conditions, promoting processes such as infiltration and evapotranspiration. Yet, evapotranspiration is generally assumed to play a minor role in the water balance of stormwater control measures. Since established urban trees can use large quantities of water, their inclusion with stormwater control measures could potentially substantially increase evapotranspiration. We installed infiltration trenches alongside established Lophostemon confertus trees in the grassed verges of a typical suburban street to assess 1) whether redirecting stormwater to trees could increase their transpiration and 2) the contribution of transpiration to the water balance of stormwater control measures. We measured stormwater retention and transpiration for two spring-summer periods and estimated an annual water balance for the infiltration trenches. Although redirecting stormwater to trees did not increase their transpiration, these trees did use large volumes of water (up to 96 L d-1), corresponding to 3.4 mm d-1 per projected canopy area. Annually, stormwater retention was 24% of runoff and tree transpiration was equivalent to 17% of runoff. Our results suggest that streetscapes fitted with tree-based stormwater control measures, could increase the volumetric reduction of stormwater runoff by increasing the proportion of evapotranspiration in the water balance. Since public space is highly contested in cities and increasing canopy cover is a priority for many planners, integrating trees with stormwater control measures could provide dual benefits for a single management intervention, enabling a greater number of distributed stormwater control measures with smaller impervious catchments in the streetscape.

Keywords

Bioretention,LID,Sap flow,Urban,WSUD,Water balance,

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