Throughfall and Stemflow in Wooded Ecosystems

  • Delphis F. Levia
  • Richard F. Keim
  • Darryl E. Carlyle-Moses
  • Ethan E. Frost
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 216)


Incident precipitation is routed to the subcanopy by throughfall and stemflow. Throughfall is defined as the precipitation that passes directly through a canopy or is initially intercepted by aboveground vegetative surfaces and subsequently drips from the canopy, whereas stemflow is the precipitation that drains from outlying leaves and branches and is channeled to the bole (or stem) of plants. Throughfall and stemflow inputs constitute the majority of incident precipitation (Table 21.1) and are of critical importance to wooded ecosystems, ranging from 70 to 90% of incoming precipitation in most cases with the remainder lost to interception (Levia and Frost 2003). The inputs of throughfall and stemflow are highly variable over space and through time with consequent “hot spots” and “hot moments” of water and solute inputs from the canopy to the subcanopy (Stout and McMahon 1961; Levia 2003; Zimmermann et al. 2007). There are marked differences in the routing of intercepted water to the forest floor via throughfall (Keim and Skaugset 2004) and stemflow (Herwitz 1987) in terms of flowpaths and residence times along vegetative surfaces, which result in notable differences in solute concentrations and mass fluxes of canopy leachates (Levia and Frost 2003; Zimmermann et al. 2007). Recent work has documented the demonstrable effects of throughfall and stemflow to the hydrology and biogeochemistry of hillslopes (Keim et al. 2006a; Liang et al. 2009). Liang et al. (2009), for example, have reported that stemflow has led to a root-induced bypass flow infiltration process on hillslopes, a coupled mechanism termed “double-funneling” (Johnson and Lehmann 2006) discussed further in Chap. 24. Stemflow also has been documented to contribute to the enrichment of soils beneath shrubs in semiarid climates, leading to a “fertile island” effect (Whitford et al. 1997), whereas the spatial distribution of fine roots was observed to mirror throughfall inputs (Ford and Deans 1978).


Bark Surface Fertile Island Micrometeorological Condition Rainfall Simulation Experiment Canopy Storage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Delphis F. Levia
    • 1
  • Richard F. Keim
    • 2
  • Darryl E. Carlyle-Moses
    • 3
  • Ethan E. Frost
    • 4
  1. 1.Departments of Geography and Plant & Soil SciencesUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.School of Renewable Natural ResourcesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geography and Graduate Program in Environmental ScienceThompson Rivers UniversityKamloopsCanada
  4. 4.Department of GeographyColgate UniversityHamiltonUSA

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