Quantifying the effects of urban green space on water partitioning and ages using an isotope-based ecohydrological model

Mikael Gillefalk, Dörthe Tetzlaff, Reinhard Hinkelmann, Lena Marie Kuhlemann, Aaron Smith, Fred Meier, Marco P. Maneta, Chris Soulsby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The acceleration of urbanization requires sustainable, adaptive management strategies for land and water use in cities. Although the effects of buildings and sealed surfaces on urban runoff generation and local climate are well known, much less is known about the role of water partitioning in urban green spaces. In particular, little is quantitatively known about how different vegetation types of urban green spaces (lawns, parks, woodland, etc.) regulate partitioning of precipitation into evaporation, transpiration and groundwater recharge and how this partitioning is affected by sealed surfaces. Here, we integrated field observations with advanced, isotope-based ecohydrological modelling at a plot-scale site in Berlin, Germany. Soil moisture and sap flow, together with stable isotopes in precipitation, soil water and groundwater recharge, were measured over the course of one growing season under three generic types of urban green space: trees, shrub and grass. Additionally, an eddy flux tower at the site continuously collected hydroclimate data. These data have been used as input and for calibration of the process-based ecohydrological model EcH2O-iso. The model tracks stable isotope ratios and water ages in various stores (e.g. soils and groundwater) and fluxes (evaporation, transpiration and recharge). Green water fluxes in evapotranspiration increased in the order shrub (381±1mm)<grass(434±21mm)<trees(489±30gmm), mainly driven by higher interception and transpiration. Similarly, ages of stored water and fluxes were generally older under trees than shrub or grass. The model also showed how the interface between sealed surfaces and green space creates edge effects in the form of "infiltration hotspots". These can both enhance evapotranspiration and increase groundwater recharge. For example, in our model, transpiration from trees increased by ∼50g% when run-on from an adjacent sealed surface was present and led to groundwater recharge even during the growing season, which was not the case under trees without run-on. The results form an important basis for future upscaling studies by showing that vegetation management needs to be considered within sustainable water and land use planning in urban areas to build resilience in cities to climatic and other environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3635-3652
Number of pages18
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 29 2021


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