Wide-area estimates of evapotranspiration by red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and associated vegetation in the Murray-Darling River Basin, Australia

Hydrological Processes
By: , and 

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Abstract

Floodplain red gum forests (Eucalyptus camaldulensis plus associated grasses, reeds and sedges) are sites of high biodiversity in otherwise arid regions of southeastern Australia. They depend on periodic floods from rivers, but dams and diversions have reduced flood frequencies and volumes, leading to deterioration of trees and associated biota. There is a need to determine their water requirements so environmental flows can be administered to maintain or restore the forests. Their water requirements include the frequency and extent of overbank flooding, which recharges the floodplain soils with water, as well as the actual amount of water consumed in evapotranspiration (ET). We estimated the flooding requirements and ET for a 38 134 ha area of red gum forest fed by the Murrumbidgee River in Yanga National Park, New South Wales. ET was estimated by three methods: sap flux sensors placed in individual trees; a remote sensing method based on the Enhanced Vegetation Index from MODIS satellite imagery and a water balance method based on differences between river flows into and out of the forest. The methods gave comparable estimates yet covered different spatial and temporal scales. We estimated flood frequency and volume requirements by comparing Normalized Difference Vegetation Index values from Landsat images with flood history from 1995 to 2014, which included both wet periods and dry periods. ET during wet years is about 50% of potential ET but is much less in dry years because of the trees' ability to control stomatal conductance. Based on our analyses plus other studies, red gum trees at this location require environmental flows of 2000 GL yr−1 every other year, with peak flows of 20 000 ML d−1, to produce flooding sufficient to keep them in good condition. However, only about 120–200 GL yr−1 of river water is consumed in ET, with the remainder flowing out of the forest where it enters the Murray River system.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Wide-area estimates of evapotranspiration by red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and associated vegetation in the Murray-Darling River Basin, Australia
Series title Hydrological Processes
DOI 10.1002/hyp.10734
Volume 30
Issue 9
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 1376
Last page 1387
Country Australia
Other Geospatial Murray-Darling River Basin
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N