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Quantifying heterogeneity in ecohydrological partitioning in urban green spaces through the integration of empirical and modelling approaches

Stevenson, Jamie Lee; Birkel, Christian; Comte, Jean-Christophe; Tetzlaff, Doerthe; Marx, Christian; Neill, Aaron; Maneta, Marco; Boll, Jan; Soulsby, Chris; Springer (Contributor)

Urban green spaces (UGS) can help mitigate hydrological impacts of urbanisation and climate change through precipitation infiltration, evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. However, there is a need to understand how precipitation is partitioned by contrasting vegetation types in order to target UGS management for specific ecosystem services. We monitored, over one growing season, hydrometeorology, soil moisture, sapflux and isotopic variability of soil water under contrasting vegetation (evergreen shrub, evergreen conifer, grassland, larger and smaller deciduous trees), focussed around a 150-m transect of UGS in northern Scotland. We further used the data to develop a one-dimensional model, calibrated to soil moisture observations (KGE’s generally > 0.65), to estimate evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. Our results evidenced clear inter-site differences, with grassland soils experiencing rapid drying at the start of summer, resulting in more fractionated soil water isotopes. Contrastingly, the larger deciduous site saw gradual drying, whilst deeper sandy upslope soils beneath the evergreen shrub drained rapidly. Soils beneath the denser canopied evergreen conifer were overall least responsive to precipitation. Modelled ecohydrological fluxes showed similar diversity, with median evapotranspiration estimates increasing in the order grassland (193 mm) < evergreen shrub (214 mm) < larger deciduous tree (224 mm) < evergreen conifer tree (265 mm). The evergreen shrub had similar estimated median transpiration totals as the larger deciduous tree (155 mm and 128 mm, respectively), though timing of water uptake was different. Median groundwater recharge was greatest beneath grassland (232 mm) and lowest beneath the evergreen conifer (128 mm). The study showed how integrating observational data and simple modelling can quantify heterogeneities in ecohydrological partitioning and help guide UGS management.
Published in: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 10.1007/s10661-023-11055-6, Springer Nature