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A Species-Specific and spatially-Explicit Model for Estimating Vegetation Water Requirements in Desert Riparian Forest Zones

Yuan, Guofu, Zhu, Xuchao, Tang, Xinzhai, Du, Tao, Yi, Xiaobo
Water resources management 2016 v.30 no.11 pp. 3915-3933
Populus euphratica, Tamarix, arid zones, basins, case studies, ecosystems, evapotranspiration, humans, meteorological data, models, riparian forests, river water, rivers, spatial data, vegetation cover, China
Balancing human demands for water with environmental requirements to maintain functioning ecosystems requires the quantification of ecological water requirements. In arid regions, high spatial variability of vegetation cover and different water consumption of plant species make it different to estimate reasonable ecological water requirements. We developed a simple and practical approach that estimates the vegetation water requirements (VWRs) of desert riparian ecosystems. This model is species-specific and spatially-explicit; it considers the water consumption characteristics required by different species and highlights the impacts that high vegetation cover spatial variability has in arid regions on evapotranspiration. The model was parameterized based on the observation of the water consumption of two typical desert riparian species, Populus euphratica and Tamarix spp., in the lower basin of the Tarim River in northwestern China. Comparisons between the modeling results and measured data for two mature Populus and Tamarix stands indicate that the model is reasonable predictive. A case study in the lower basin of the Tarim River demonstrated the model’s practicality and transferability. This model could run based on near real-time or forest weather data and spatial vegetation patterns, and provides a continuous estimation of the temporal and spatial variations of the VWR. Particularly, this model forecasts VWRs under different vegetation spatial distribution and coverage scenarios, and evaluates the impacts and consequences of different management actions. This model can serve as a useful tool for management agencies interested in improving their decisions to allocate river water between human activities and natural ecosystems in arid regions.