Articles | Volume 15, issue 11
Research article
17 Nov 2011
Research article |  | 17 Nov 2011

Sensitivity of a data-driven soil water balance model to estimate summer evapotranspiration along a forest chronosequence

J. A. Breña Naranjo, M. Weiler, and K. Stahl

Abstract. The hydrology of ecosystem succession gives rise to new challenges for the analysis and modelling of water balance components. Recent large-scale alterations of forest cover across the globe suggest that a significant portion of new biophysical environments will influence the long-term dynamics and limits of water fluxes compared to pre-succession conditions. This study assesses the estimation of summer evapotranspiration along three FLUXNET sites at Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada using a data-driven soil water balance model validated by Eddy Covariance measurements. It explores the sensitivity of the model to different forest succession states, a wide range of computational time steps, rooting depths, and canopy interception capacity values. Uncertainty in the measured EC fluxes resulting in an energy imbalance was consistent with previous studies and does not affect the validation of the model. The agreement between observations and model estimates proves that the usefulness of the method to predict summer AET over mid- and long-term periods is independent of stand age. However, an optimal combination of the parameters rooting depth, time step and interception capacity threshold is needed to avoid an underestimation of AET as seen in past studies. The study suggests that summer AET could be estimated and monitored in many more places than those equipped with Eddy Covariance or sap-flow measurements to advance the understanding of water balance changes in different successional ecosystems.