The Importance of Considering Rainfall Partitioning in Afforestation Initiatives in Semiarid Climates: a Comparison of Common Planted Tree Species in Tehran, Iran

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Science of the Total Environment




As plantations become increasingly important sources of wood and fiber in arid/semiarid places, they have also become increasingly criticized for their hydrological impacts. An examination and comparison of gross rainfall (GR) partitioning across commonly-planted tree species (Pinus eldarica, Cupressus arizonica, Robinia pseudoacacia, and Fraxinus rotundifolia) in semiarid regions has great value for watershed and forest managers interested in managing canopy hydrological processes for societal benefit. Therefore, we performed a field study examining GR partitioning into throughfall (TF), stemflow (SF), and rainfall interception (I) for these species in the semiarid Chitgar Forest Park, Tehran, Iran. An advantage to our study is that we explore the effects of forest structural differences in plantation forests experiencing similar climatic factors and storm conditions. As such, variability in GR partitioning due to different meteorological conditions is minimized, allowing comparison of structural attributes across plantations. Our results show that commonly-selected afforestation species experiencing the same climate produced differing stand structures that differentially partition GR into TF, SF, and I. P. eldarica might be the best of the four species to plant if the primary goal of afforestation is to limit erosion and stormwater runoff as it intercepted more rainfall than other species. However, the high SF generation from F. rotundifolia, and low GR necessary to initiate SF, could maximize retention of water in the soils since SF has been shown to infiltrate along root pathways and access groundwater. A consideration of GR partitioning should be considered when selecting a species for afforestation/reforestation in water-limited ecosystems.