The infiltration of stormwater runoff for use by urban trees is a major co-benefit of green infrastructure for desert cities with limited water resources. However, the effects of this passive irrigation versus regular, controlled moisture inputs, or active irrigation, is largely unquantified. We monitored the ecohydrology of urban mesquite trees (Prosopis spp.) under these contrasting irrigation regimes in semiarid Tucson, AZ. Measurements included soil moisture, sap velocity, canopy greenness, and leaf-area index. We expected both irrigation types to provide additional deep (>20 cm) soil moisture compared to natural conditions, and that trees would depend on this deep moisture for transpiration and phenological activity. Results show that active irrigation supported higher soil moisture throughout the study than passive irrigation. Passive irrigation only provided additional deep moisture when green infrastructure features received impervious runoff from a city street. Sap velocity and greenness were similar under both irrigation types, outside of isolated periods of time. These differences occurred during the extremely wet summer 2017 when passively irrigated trees exhibited a greenness peak, and the dry conditions of spring when actively irrigated trees had higher sap flow and relative greenness. Finally, it was not determined that deep soil moisture had a stronger relationship with mesquite productivity than shallow moisture, but both relationships were stronger in the spring, before summer rains. This study aims to contribute empirical observations of green infrastructure performance for urban watershed management.
Luketich AM, Papuga SA, Crimmins MA (2019) Ecohydrology of urban trees under passive and active irrigation in a semiarid city. PLoS ONE 14(11): e0224804. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0224804