Water balance and tree water use dynamics in remnant urban reserves

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During the expansion of urban areas, small natural reserves have often been left intact within the built environment as central elements of biodiversity conservation, ecological connectivity, landscape sustainability, and quality of life of urban dwellers. Consequently, the surrounding urbanized landscape may impact the environmental conditions of these reserves (e.g., high temperatures, low moisture conditions), resulting in the need for extensive maintenance. This study presents an estimation of the water balance over two years (2017–2018) in three small urban reserves (between 2 and 30 ha) within the Greater Melbourne metropolitan area in Australia, for the purpose of understanding tree water use. Measurements of micrometeorological variables, soil moisture content profiles, water-table levels, sap flow velocities, and stem diameter variations were used to quantify the water sources of tree transpiration in these reserves. Results revealed that, despite the urban surroundings and the climate variations, these reserves have enough water to sustain tree transpiration. In two of the three reserves, groundwater was pivotal in sustaining transpiration rates; specifically, groundwater was estimated to contribute about 30–40% of the total transpiration amount during the driest periods of the year. Groundwater also played an essential role during nights with temperatures above 25 °C, helping trees to maintain night-time water use from 3 to 16% of the daily water use. In the third reserve, the presence of a shallow layer of heavy clay supplied water to the trees, which were able to maintain relatively constant transpiration rates throughout the year. These results demonstrate the importance of understanding the water regime of each urban reserve in order to support government authorities in preserving these ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-353
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Groundwater dependent ecosystems
  • Heat stress
  • Remnant vegetation
  • Urban green spaces
  • Urban parks
  • Urban reserves

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