Introducing Pour Points: Characteristics and Hydrological Significance of a Rainfall-Concentrating Mechanism in a Water-Limited Woodland Ecosystem

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Abstract

The interception of rainfall by plant canopies alters the depth and spatial distribution of water arriving at the soil surface, and thus the location, volume, and depth of infiltration. Mechanisms like stemflow are known to concentrate rainfall and route it deep into the soil, yet other mechanisms of flow concentration are poorly understood. This study characterizes pour points, formed by the detachment of water flowing under a branch, using a combination of field observations in Western Australian banksia woodlands and rainfall simulation experiments on Banksia menziesii branches. We aim to establish the hydrological significance of pour points in a water-limited woodland ecosystem, along with the features of the canopy structure and rainfall that influence pour point formation and fluxes. Pour points were common in the woodland and could be identified by visually inspecting trees. Throughfall depths at pour points were up to 15 times greater than rainfall and generally comparable to or greater than stemflow. Soil water content beneath pour points was greater than in adjacent controls, with 20%–30% of the seasonal rainfall volume infiltrated into the top 1 m of soil beneath pour points, compared to 5% in controls. Rainfall simulations showed that pour points amplified the spatial heterogeneity of throughfall, violating assumptions used to close the water balance. The simulation experiments demonstrated that pour point fluxes depend on the interaction of branch angle and foliation for a given branch architecture. Pour points can play a significant part in the water balance, depending on their density and rainfall concentration ability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023WR035458
Number of pages23
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume60
Issue number3
Early online date29 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

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