Articles | Volume 13, issue 11
12 Nov 2009
 | 12 Nov 2009

Modelling runoff at the plot scale taking into account rainfall partitioning by vegetation: application to stemflow of banana (Musa spp.) plant

J.-B. Charlier, R. Moussa, P. Cattan, Y.-M. Cabidoche, and M. Voltz

Abstract. Rainfall partitioning by vegetation modifies the intensity of rainwater reaching the ground, which affects runoff generation. Incident rainfall is intercepted by the plant canopy and then redistributed into throughfall and stemflow. Rainfall intensities at the soil surface are therefore not spatially uniform, generating local variations of runoff production that are disregarded in runoff models. The aim of this paper was to model runoff at the plot scale, accounting for rainfall partitioning by vegetation in the case of plants concentrating rainwater at the plant foot and promoting stemflow. We developed a lumped modelling approach, including a stemflow function that divided the plot into two compartments: one compartment including stemflow and the related water pathways and one compartment for the rest of the plot. This stemflow function was coupled with a production function and a transfer function to simulate a flood hydrograph using the MHYDAS model. Calibrated parameters were a "stemflow coefficient", which compartmented the plot; the saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks), which controls infiltration and runoff; and the two parameters of the diffusive wave equation. We tested our model on a banana plot of 3000 m2 on permeable Andosol (mean Ks=75 mm h−1) under tropical rainfalls, in Guadeloupe (FWI). Runoff simulations without and with the stemflow function were performed and compared to 18 flood events from 10 to 140 rainfall mm depth. Modelling results showed that the stemflow function improved the calibration of hydrographs according to the error criteria on volume and on peakflow, to the Nash and Sutcliffe coefficient, and to the root mean square error. This was particularly the case for low flows observed during residual rainfall, for which the stemflow function allowed runoff to be simulated for rainfall intensities lower than the Ks measured at the soil surface. This approach also allowed us to take into account the experimental data, without needing to calibrate the runoff volume on Ks parameter. Finally, the results suggest a rainwater redistribution module should be included in distributed runoff models at a larger scale of the catchment.