Meteorological Influences on Stemflow Generation Across Diameter Size Classes of Two Morphologically Distinct Deciduous Species

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International Journal of Biometeorology




Many tree species have been shown to funnel substantial rainfall to their stem base as stemflow flux, given a favorable stand structure and storm conditions. As stemflow is a spatially concentrated flux, prior studies have shown its impact on ecohydrological and biogeochemical processes can be significant. Less work has been performed examining stemflow variability from meteorological conditions compared to canopy structural traits. As such, this study performs multiple regressions: (1) to examine stemflow variability due to event-based rainfall amount, intensity, mean wind speeds, and vapor pressure deficit; (2) across three diameter size classes (10–20, 21–40, and >41 cm DBH); and (3) for two common tree species in the northeastern USA of contrasting canopy morphology—Liriodendron tulipifera L. (yellow poplar) versus Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. (American beech). On the whole, multiple regression results yielded significant positive correlations with stemflow for rainfall amount, intensity, and mean wind speed and a significant negative correlation for vapor pressure deficit (VPD). Tree size altered stemflow-meteorological condition relationships, where larger trees strengthened indirect stemflow-VPD and direct stemflow-rainfall and stemflow-intensity associations. Canopies of rougher bark and lower branch angle (represented by L. tulipifera) enhanced correlations for nearly all meteorological conditions via greater stemflow residence time (and longer exposure to meteorological conditions). Multiple regressions performed on leafless canopy stemflow resulted in an inverse relationship with wind speeds, likely decoupling stemflow sheltered solely on bark surfaces from VPD influences. Leaf presence generally increased direct stemflow associations with rainfall intensity, yet diminished stemflow-rainfall relationships. F. grandifolia canopies (exemplifying structures of smoother bark and greater branch angle) strengthened differences in stemflow associations with rainfall/mean wind speed between leaf states. These findings are placed in a conceptual interception loss path analysis, which shows the potential to alter common interception loss estimates in high stemflow stands.