• atmospheric modeling;
  • FEM;
  • plant hydraulics;
  • porous media flow;
  • resistor-capacitor representation

[1] Estimating transpiration and water flow in trees remains a major challenge for quantifying water exchange between the biosphere and the atmosphere. We develop a finite element tree crown hydrodynamics (FETCH) model that uses porous media equations for water flow in an explicit three-dimensional branching fractal tree-crown system. It also incorporates a first-order canopy-air turbulence closure model to generate the external forcing of the system. We use FETCH to conduct sensitivity analysis of transpirational dynamics to changes in canopy structure via two scaling parameters for branch thickness and conductance. We compare our results with the equivalent parameters of the commonly used resistor and resistor-capacitor representations of tree hydraulics. We show that the apparent temporal and vertical variability in these parameters strongly depends on structure. We suggest that following empirical calibration and validation, FETCH could be used as a platform for calibrating the “scaling laws” between tree structure and hydrodynamics and for surface parameterization in meteorological and hydrological models.