Main content area

A simple and objective method to partition evapotranspiration into transpiration and evaporation at eddy-covariance sites

Li, Xi, Gentine, Pierre, Lin, Changjie, Zhou, Sha, Sun, Zan, Zheng, Yi, Liu, Jie, Zheng, Chunmiao
Agricultural and forest meteorology 2019 v.265 pp. 171-182
canopy, cropland, ecosystems, eddy covariance, evaporation, evapotranspiration, forests, grasslands, gross primary productivity, hydrologic cycle, leaf area index, models, prediction, soil, transpiration
Separating evapotranspiration (ET) into evaporation (E) and transpiration (T) is challenging but key for a better understanding and prediction of the hydrological cycle and plant water use. In this study, flux data at 30 routine eddy-covariance sites were used to develop a new and simple method for ET partitioning based on the separation of soil and canopy conductances, with the main assumption that the latter is proportional to gross primary productivity (GPP). The result of T:ET across different plant functional types (PFTs) was consistent with recent modeling or empirical results. The mean annual T:ET was highest for evergreen needleleaf forests (0.75 ± 0.17), followed by croplands (0.62 ± 0.16) and grasslands (0.56 ± 0.15). The leaf area index (LAI) was shown to explain only small (20%) variations of mean annual T:ET across sites. However, at each site, the correlation of T:ET with LAI was strong at the seasonal scale, where T:ET increased nonlinearly with LAI. The results did not show significant relationship of T:ET with long-term mean precipitation across sites at multiyear timescales. However, the partitioned soil evaporation after each precipitation pulse is consistent with three-stage soil evaporation theory. This ET partitioning method is an objective assessment as it is mainly data-driven. The procedure to apply this method is also simple so it can be readily applied to global flux tower networks at different temporal and spatial scales, enabling continuous estimation of T:ET to monitor ecosystem dynamics and hydrological responses to environmental change.