EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Early European Observations of Precipitation Partitioning by Vegetation: A Synthesis and Evaluation of 19th Century Findings

Jan Friesen1 and John T. Van Stan II2
Jan Friesen and John T. Van Stan II
  • 1Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Catchment Hydrology (CatHyd), Leipzig, Germany (
  • 2Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, USA (

The first contact between precipitation and the land surface is often a plant canopy. The resulting precipitation partitioning by vegetation returns water back to the atmosphere (evaporation of intercepted precipitation) and redistributes water to the subcanopy surface as a “drip” flux (throughfall) and water that drains down plant stems (stemflow). Prior to the first benchmark publication of the field by Horton in 1919, European observatories and experimental stations had been observing precipitation partitioning since the mid-19th century. In this paper, we describe these early monitoring networks and studies of precipitation partitioning and show the impressive level of detail. Next to a description of the early studies, results included in this synthesis have been digitized and analyzed to compare them to recent studies. Although many early studies lack modern statistical analyses and monitoring tools that have become standard today, they had many strengths (not necessarily shared by every study, of course), including: A rigorous level of detail regarding stand characteristics (which is often lacking in modern ecohydrological studies); high-resolution spatiotemporal throughfall experiments; and chronosequential data collection and analysis. Moreover, these early studies reveal the roots of interest in precipitation partitioning processes and represent a generally forgotten piece of history shared by the hydrology, meteorology, forestry, and agricultural scientific communities. These studies are therefore relevant today and we hope modern scientists interested in plant-precipitation interactions will find new inspiration in our synthesis and evaluation of this literature.

How to cite: Friesen, J. and Van Stan II, J. T.: Early European Observations of Precipitation Partitioning by Vegetation: A Synthesis and Evaluation of 19th Century Findings , EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-9078,, 2020

Display materials

Display file

Comments on the display material

AC: Author Comment | CC: Community Comment | Report abuse

Display material version 1 – uploaded on 30 Apr 2020
  • AC1: Comment on EGU2020-9078, John Van Stan, 06 May 2020

    Hi Everyone - Please comment on the YouTube videos. This will nicely organize everyone's thoughts by chapter and it means I get a notification, so I can respond right away :)

    Look forward to chatting,


    • AC2: Reply to AC1, John Van Stan, 06 May 2020

      Whoops, wrong presentation. lol.