Improving forest water balance models by quantifying tree species differences in crown architecture and evapotranspiration

Authors: Brittany Casey*, West Virginia University, Edward Brzostek, West Virginia University, Nicolas Zegre, West Virginia University, Luis Andres Guillén, West Virginia University, Nanette Raczka, West Virginia University, Brenden McNeil, WVU
Topics: Environment, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Climatology and Meteorology
Keywords: canopy complexity, forest structure, water balance, GIS modeling, forest, ecosystem
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download


The possibility of increased severity and frequency of drought conditions greatly complicates our ability forecast future forest functions. Throughfall-exclusion (TfE) experiments, in combination with GIS-based water balance models, have the potential to be useful tools to simulate realistic drought conditions within intact forest ecosystems by accounting for specific uncertainties in factors of both supply and demand by incorporating climatic, topographic, and vegetation-structural data. Thus, the models could be useful to reconcile the relative effects of reducing water supply via TfE. against inherent site and vegetation-related differences in site water demand. We used a GIS water balance model to assess the relative degree to which topographic site differences and tree species differences in vegetation structure alter solar radiation and affect a 50% TfE experiment conducted during the 2017-2018 growing seasons within the Elizabeth Woods Nature Preserve near Morgantown, WV. Model outputs from 2017 reveal a topographic impact on water demand caused by reduced sunlight in the control plots, average of 12-17% lower water demand relative to experimental plots, which agreed with measured soil moisture data. Results from 2018 use improved solar radiation data, as well as ground-based portable canopy LiDAR, within-canopy light sensors, and leaf angle data to describe the effect of vegetation structure on the canopy light environment. By addressing uncertainties related to vegetation structural effects on the forest microclimate, we seek to advance understanding gained from experimental forest drought studies, and thereby improve their utility in forecasting forest functioning under the drought conditions that may come with global change.

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