Inter-annual variability in the effects of riparian woodland on micro-climate, energy exchanges and water temperature of an upland Scottish stream

Grace Garner, Iain A. Malcolm, Jonathan P. Sadler, Colin P. Millar, David M. Hannah*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
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The influence of riparian woodland on stream temperature, microclimate and energy exchange was investigated over seven calendar years. Continuous data were collected from two reaches of the Girnock Burn (a tributary of the Aberdeenshire Dee, Scotland) with contrasting landuse characteristics: (1) semi-natural riparian forest and (2) open moorland. In the moorland reach, wind speed and energy fluxes (especially net radiation, latent heat and sensible heat) varied considerably between years as a consequence of variable riparian microclimate coupled strongly to prevailing meteorological conditions. In the forested reach, riparian vegetation sheltered the stream from meteorological conditions which produced a moderated microclimate and thus energy exchange conditions which were relatively stable between years. Net energy gains (losses) in spring and summer (autumn and winter) were typically greater in the moorland than the forest. However, when particularly high latent heat loss or low net radiation gain occurred in the moorland, net energy gain (loss) was less than that in the forest during the spring and summer (autumn and winter) months. Spring and summer water temperature was typically cooler in the forest, and characterised by less inter-annual variability due to reduced, more inter-annually stable energy gain in the forested reach. The effect of riparian vegetation on autumn and winter water temperature dynamics was less clear due to the confounding effects of reach-scale inflows of thermally stable groundwater in the moorland reach, which strongly influenced the local heat budget. These findings provide new insights as to the hydrometeorological conditions under which semi-natural riparian forest may be effective in mitigating river thermal variability, notably peaks, under present and future climates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1080-1095
Number of pages16
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number6
Early online date21 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2015


  • stream/ river temperature
  • inter-annual variability
  • riparian forest
  • stream energy budget
  • hydrometeorology
  • climate change mitigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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