EGU22-526, updated on 26 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Throughfall variability at the hillslope scale: the role of topography and tree characteristics

Matteo Verdone1, Marco Borga2, Andrea Dani1, Federico Preti1, Paolo Trucchi1, Giulia Zuecco2, Ilja van Meerveld3, Christian Massari4, and Daniele Penna1
Matteo Verdone et al.
  • 1University of Florence, DAGRI, Italy (
  • 2University of Padua, TESAF, Italy
  • 3University of Zurich, Department of Geography, Switzerland
  • 4National Research Council, Research institute of the Geo-Hydrological Protection

Understanding the role of forest on rainfall interception is fundamental for a correct analysis and modelling of runoff generation and catchment hydrological response. Despite many studies were carried out at the stand and hillslope scale, very little is known about the role of hillslope topography and the associated tree population characteristics on throughfall spatio-temporal variability. Therefore, this work aimed at better understanding the dominant factors on throughfall variability and on the temporal persistence of throughfall spatial patterns along a transect on a steep hillslope characterized by trees with different size and density.

The experimental activities were carried out in the upper part of the densely-forested Re della Pietra catchment, Tuscany Apennines, Central Italy. The hillslope is roughly 110 m long and 60 m wide, has a mean slope of 30°, and is dominantly covered by beech trees and by sparce individuals of oak trees. A grid of 126 throughfall collectors was installed in July 2020 and divided in three sub-plots: two plots of 144 m2 with 2-m spaced 49 collectors at the bottom and the top of the hillslope, and a transect of 28 1-m spaced collectors from the bottom to the top of the hillslope. A survey was conducted to measure the diameter and basal area of the stand. Throughfall was manually measured from the collectors approximately monthly from June 2020 to November 2021, and compared with gross precipitation measured by a rain gauge placed outside the vegetation cover. Moreover, five automatic gauges connected to 1.5 m-long gutter to increase the collection area were installed in November 2021 along the hillslope to measure throughfall at high temporal resolution.

Preliminary results from 25 manual measurements over the experimental grid highlighted a large temporal variability of interception (mean: 17%, standard deviation: ±31%), reflecting the variable seasonal precipitation pattern of Mediterranean areas and the phenological stage of trees (leaves/no leaves). Overall, the spatial variability in throughfall increased with increasing gross precipitation. Particularly, the bottom plot, characterized by lower tree density and larger tree size compared to the top plot, showed a lower spatial variability with respect to the top plot, while the longitudinal transect exhibited an intermediate variability. Analogously, the temporal stability analysis revealed that the most temporally-stable and representative measurement points laid on the transect that, overall, captured the different tree characteristics along the hillslope.

Future work will make use of the high-resolution measurements of the five gauges to assess their representativeness compared to the manual grid and to test and validate an interception model at the hillslope scale to be possibly upscaled to the entire catchment.

How to cite: Verdone, M., Borga, M., Dani, A., Preti, F., Trucchi, P., Zuecco, G., van Meerveld, I., Massari, C., and Penna, D.: Throughfall variability at the hillslope scale: the role of topography and tree characteristics, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-526,, 2022.


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