Surface Water Storage Capacity of Twenty Tree Species in Davis, California

J Environ Qual. 2016 Jan;45(1):188-98. doi: 10.2134/jeq2015.02.0092.


Urban forestry is an important green infrastructure strategy because healthy trees can intercept rainfall, reducing stormwater runoff and pollutant loading. Surface saturation storage capacity, defined as the thin film of water that must wet tree surfaces before flow begins, is the most important variable influencing rainfall interception processes. Surface storage capacity is known to vary widely among tree species, but it is little studied. This research measured surface storage capacities of 20 urban tree species in a rainfall simulator. The measurement system included a rainfall simulator, digital balance, digital camera, and computer. Eight samples were randomly collected from each tree species. Twelve rainfall intensities (3.5-139.5 mm h) were simulated. Leaf-on and leaf-off simulations were conducted for deciduous species. Stem and foliar surface areas were estimated using an image analysis method. Results indicated that surface storage capacities varied threefold among tree species, 0.59 mm for crape myrtle ( L.) and 1.81 mm for blue spruce ( Engelm.). The mean value across all species was 0.86 mm (0.11 mm SD). To illustrate application of the storage values, interception was simulated and compared across species for a 40-yr period with different rainfall intensities and durations. By quantifying the potential for different tree species to intercept rainfall under a variety of meteorological conditions, this study provides new knowledge that is fundamental to validating the cost-effectiveness of urban forestry as a green infrastructure strategy and designing functional plantings.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Rain
  • Trees*
  • Water
  • Water Movements*


  • Water