Understanding variability in root zone storage capacity in boreal regions
The root zone storage capacity (Sr) of vegetation is an important parameter in the hydrological behaviour of a catchment. Traditionally, Sr is derived from soil and vegetation data. However, more recently a new method has been developed that uses climate data to estimate Sr based on the assumption that vegetation adapts its root zone storage capacity to overcome dry periods. This method also enables one to take into account temporal variability of derived Sr values resulting from changes in climate or land cover. The current study applies this new method in 64 catchments in Finland to investigate the reasons for variability in Sr in boreal regions. Relations were assessed between climate-derived Sr values and climate variables (precipitation-potential evaporation rate, mean annual temperature, max snow water equivalent, snow-off date), detailed vegetation characteristics (leaf cover, tree length, root biomass), and vegetation types. The results show that in particular the phase difference between snow-off date and onset of potential evaporation has a large influence on the derived Sr values. Further to this it is found that (non-)coincidence of snow melt and potential evaporation could cause a division between catchments with a high and a low Sr value. It is concluded that the climate-derived root zone storage capacity leads to plausible Sr values in boreal areas and that, apart from climate variables, catchment vegetation characteristics can also be directly linked to the derived Sr values. As the climate-derived Sr enables incorporating climatic and vegetation conditions in a hydrological parameter, it could be beneficial to assess the effects of changing climate and environmental conditions in boreal regions.