Habitat complexity influences fine scale hydrological processes and the incidence of stormwater runoff in managed urban ecosystems

Alessandro Ossola, Amy Kristin Hahs, Stephen John Livesley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Urban ecosystems have traditionally been considered to be pervious features of our cities. Their hydrological properties have largely been investigated at the landscape scale and in comparison with other urban land use types. However, hydrological properties can vary at smaller scales depending upon changes in soil, surface litter and vegetation components. Management practices can directly and indirectly affect each of these components and the overall habitat complexity, ultimately affecting hydrological processes. This study aims to investigate the influence that habitat components and habitat complexity have upon key hydrological processes and the implications for urban habitat management. Using a network of urban parks and remnant nature reserves in Melbourne, Australia, replicate plots representing three types of habitat complexity were established: low-complexity parks, high-complexity parks, and high-complexity remnants. Saturated soil hydraulic conductivity in low-complexity parks was an order of magnitude lower than that measured in the more complex habitat types, due to fewer soil macropores. Conversely, soil water holding capacity in low-complexity parks was significantly higher compared to the two more complex habitat types. Low-complexity parks would generate runoff during modest precipitation events, whereas high-complexity parks and remnants would be able to absorb the vast majority of rainfall events without generating runoff. Litter layers on the soil surface would absorb most of precipitation events in high-complexity parks and high-complexity remnants. To minimize the incidence of stormwater runoff from urban ecosystems, land managers could incrementally increase the complexity of habitat patches, by increasing canopy density and volume, preserving surface litter and maintaining soil macropore structure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • habitat complexity
  • management
  • urban hydrology
  • soil properties
  • litter
  • vegetation
  • Habitat complexity
  • Litter
  • Soil properties
  • Vegetation
  • Management
  • Urban hydrology


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