The single-point statistics of turbulence in the ‘roughness sub-layer’ occupied by the plant canopy and the air layer just above it differ significantly from those in the surface layer. The mean velocity profile is inflected, second moments are strongly inhomogeneous with height, skewnesses are large, and second-moment budgets are far from local equilibrium. Velocity moments scale with single length and time scales throughout the layer rather than depending on height. Large coherent structures control turbulence dynamics. Sweeps rather than ejections dominate eddy fluxes and a typical large eddy consists of a pair of counter-rotating streamwise vortices, the downdraft between the vortex pair generating the sweep. Comparison with the statistics and instability modes of the plane mixing layer shows that the latter rather than the boundary layer is the appropriate model for canopy flow and that the dominant large eddies are the result of an inviscid instability of the inflected mean velocity profile. Aerodynamic drag on the foliage is the cause both of the unstable inflected velocity profile and of a ‘spectral short cut’ mechanism that removes energy from large eddies and diverts it to fine scales, where it is rapidly dissipated, bypassing the inertial eddy-cascade. Total dissipation rates are very large in the canopy as a result of the fine-scale shear layers that develop around the foliage.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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