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Rainfall partitioning, tree form and measurement scale: a comparison of two co-occurring, morphologically distinct tree species in a semi-arid environment



The partitioning of precipitation into interception, stemflow and throughfall is an important hydrological process in forested systems, influenced heavily by climate and plant form. This study examined whether the rainfall partitioning pathways reflect the often cited influence of tree morphology, using two species in a semi-arid karst environment. Eucalyptus diversifolia ssp. diversifolia has a multi-stemmed habit, smooth bark and true leaves. In comparison, Allocasuarina verticillata has a single trunk, rough bark and long, thin, vertical phyllodes. We hypothesized that multiple stems and a smooth bark would be more effective at generating stemflow compared with single stems with a rough bark surface. To test this, rainfall, throughfall and stemflow were collected over two years, and stemflow funnelling ratios were calculated. The degree of similarity in overall rainfall partitioning for the two species was remarkable; although some divergence was found each month, the partitioning regressions converged. For E. diversifolia, gross rainfall partitioned into interception, throughfall and stemflow averaged 30.9%, 66.4% and 2.7%, respectively. For A. verticillata, rainfall partitioning of gross precipitation into interception, throughfall and stemflow averaged 31.4%, 65.9% and 2.7%, respectively. Maximum stemflow funnelling ratio for E. diversifolia was 74 and for A. verticillata was 147, indicating that water from stemflow is likely to play an important ecohydrological role in this environment. We further compared these findings to 31 global studies and discussed the importance of scale (individual tree vs plot) and canopy cover when reporting or interpreting rainfall partitioning results. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.