A biophysical approach using water deficit factor for daily estimations of evapotranspiration and CO 2 uptake in Mediterranean environments

Helman, David; Lensky, Itamar M.; Osem, Yagil; Rohatyn, Shani; Rotenberg, Eyal; Yakir, Dan

Estimations of ecosystem-level evapotranspiration (ET) and CO 2 uptake in water-limited environments are scarce and scaling up ground-level measurements is not straightforward. A biophysical approach using remote sensing (RS) and meteorological data (RS–Met) is adjusted to extreme high-energy water-limited Mediterranean ecosystems that suffer from continuous stress conditions to provide daily estimations of ET and CO 2 uptake (measured as gross primary production, GPP) at a spatial resolution of 250 m. The RS–Met was adjusted using a seasonal water deficit factor ( fWD) based on daily rainfall, temperature and radiation data. We validated our adjusted RS–Met with eddy covariance flux measurements using a newly developed mobile lab system and the single active FLUXNET station operating in this region (Yatir pine forest station) at a total of seven forest and non-forest sites across a climatic transect in Israel (280–770 mm yr −1). RS–Met was also compared to the satellite-borne MODIS-based ET and GPP products (MOD16 and MOD17, respectively) at these sites.

Results show that the inclusion of the fWD significantly improved the model, with R =  0.64–0.91 for the ET-adjusted model (compared to 0.05–0.80 for the unadjusted model) and R =  0.72–0.92 for the adjusted GPP model (compared to R =  0.56–0.90 of the non-adjusted model). The RS–Met (with the fWD) successfully tracked observed changes in ET and GPP between dry and wet seasons across the sites. ET and GPP estimates from the adjusted RS–Met also agreed well with eddy covariance estimates on an annual timescale at the FLUXNET station of Yatir (266 ± 61 vs. 257 ± 58 mm yr −1 and 765 ± 112 vs. 748 ± 124 gC m −2 yr −1 for ET and GPP, respectively). Comparison with MODIS products showed consistently lower estimates from the MODIS-based models, particularly at the forest sites. Using the adjusted RS–Met, we show that afforestation significantly increased the water use efficiency (the ratio of carbon uptake to ET) in this region, with the positive effect decreasing when moving from dry to more humid environments, strengthening the importance of drylands afforestation. This simple yet robust biophysical approach shows promise for reliable ecosystem-level estimations of ET and CO 2 uptake in extreme high-energy water-limited environments.

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Helman, David / Lensky, Itamar M. / Osem, Yagil / et al: A biophysical approach using water deficit factor for daily estimations of evapotranspiration and CO2 uptake in Mediterranean environments. 2017. Copernicus Publications.

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