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© Author(s) 2008. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
© Author(s) 2008. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Submitted as:   26 Nov 2008

Submitted as:   | 26 Nov 2008

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This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript for further review has not been submitted.

Characterisation of ecosystem water-use efficiency of european forests from eddy covariance measurements

F. G. Kuglitsch2,1, M. Reichstein1, C. Beer1, A. Carrara3, R. Ceulemans4, A. Granier5, I. A. Janssens4, B. Koestner6, A. Lindroth7, D. Loustau8, G. Matteucci9, L. Montagnani10, E. J. Moors11, D. Papale12, K. Pilegaard13, S. Rambal14, C. Rebmann1, E. D. Schulze1, G. Seufert9, H. Verbeeck15,4, T. Vesala16, M. Aubinet17, C. Bernhofer6, T. Foken18, T. Grünwald6, B. Heinesch17, W. Kutsch1, T. Laurila19, B. Longdoz5, F. Miglietta20, M. J. Sanz3, and R. Valentini12 F. G. Kuglitsch et al.
  • 1Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany
  • 2NCCR Climate and Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Fundacion CEAM C/Charles Darwin, Parque Tecnologico de Paterna, Valencia, Spain
  • 4Department of Biology, University of Antwerpen, Wilrijk, Belgium
  • 5UMR INRA-UHP Ecologie et Ecophysiologie Forestières, INRA Centre de Nancy, Champenoux, France
  • 6Technische Universität Dresden, Institut für Hydrologie und Meteorologie, Tharandt, Germany
  • 7Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystems Analysis, Geobiosphere Science Centre, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  • 8INRA, UR1263, Functional Ecology and Environmental Physics (Ephyse), Villenave d'Ornon, France
  • 9ISAFOM-CNR, National Research Council-Institute for Mediterranean Agriculture and Forest Systems, Rende, Italy
  • 10Agenzia Provinciale per l'Ambiente, Bolzano, Italy
  • 11Alterra, Postbus 47, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 12Department of Forest Science and Environment, University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
  • 13Biosystems Department, Risoe National Laboratory, Technical University of Denmark, Roskilde, Denmark
  • 14DREAM Unit, Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionelle et Evolutive, CNRS, Montpellier, France
  • 15Laboratory of Climate Sciences and the Environment (LSCE), Joint Unit of CEA-CNRS, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 16Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 17Faculté des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux, Unité de Physique, Gembloux, Belgium
  • 18Universität Bayreuth, Abteilung Mikrometeorologie, Bayreuth, Germany
  • 19Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 20IBIMET-CNR, Firenze, Italy

Abstract. Water-use efficiency (WUE) has been recognized as an important characteristic of vegetation productivity in various natural scientific disciplines for decades, but only recently at the ecosystem level, where different ways exist to characterize water-use efficiency. Hence, the objective of this research was (a) to systematically compare different ways of calculating ecosystem water-use efficiency (WUEe) from eddy-covariance measurements, (b) quantify the diurnal, seasonal and interannual variability of WUEe in relation to meteorological conditions, and (c) analyse between-site variability of WUEe as affected by vegetation type and climatic conditions, across sites in European forest ecosystems.

Day-to-day variability of gross primary productivity (GPP) and evapotranspiration (ET) were more strongly coupled than net ecosystem production (NEP) and ET, obviously because NEP also depends on the respiration that is not heavily coupled to water fluxes. However, the slope of daytime NEP versus ET (mNEP) from half-hourly measurements of a single day may also be used as a WUEe-estimate giving very similar results to those of the GPP-ET slope (mGPP), since the diurnal variation is dominated by GPP. Since ET is the sum of transpiration (linked to GPP) and evaporation from wet vegetation and soil surfaces (not linked to GPP) we expected that WUEe is increasing when days after rain are excluded from the analysis. However only very minor changes were found, justifying an analysis of WUEe related to vegetation type.

In most of the studied ecosystems the instantaneous WUEGPP was quite sensitive to diurnally varying meteorological conditions and tended to decline from the morning to the afternoon by more than 50% because of increasing vapour pressure deficits (VPD).

Seasonally, WUEGPP increased with a rising monthly precipitation sum and rising average monthly temperatures up to a threshold of 11, 14 and 18°C in boreal, temperate and Mediterranean ecosystems, respectively. Across all sites, the highest monthly WUEGPP-values were detected at times of positive anomalies of summer-precipitation. During drought periods with high temperatures, high VPD, little precipitation and low soil water content, the water-use efficiency of gross carbon uptake (WUEGPP) tended to decrease in all forest types because of a stronger decline of GPP compared to ET.

However the largest variation of growing season WUEGPP was found between-sites and significantly related to vegetation type: WUEGPP was highest in ecosystems dominated by deciduous trees ranging from 5.0 g CO2 kg H2O−1 for temperate broad-leaved deciduous forests (TD), to 4.5 for temperate mixed forests (TM), 3.5 for temperate evergreen conifers (TC), 3.4 for Mediterranean broad-leaved deciduous forests (MD), 3.3 for Mediterranean broad-leaved evergreen forests (Mbeg), 3.1 for Mediterranean evergreen conifers (MC), 2.9 for boreal evergreen conifers (BC) and only 1.2 g CO2 kg H2O−1 for a boreal wetland site (BT). Although vegetation type and meteorology co-vary, the WUEGPP variation was hardly related to meteorology, as we could show by comparing similar meteorological conditions only. Furthermore we compared across-site WUEGPP only under conditions when the 10% high GPP rates were exhibited. The between site differences remained, and at all sites ecosystem reached higher WUEGPP levels under this condition. This means when vegetation is most productive usually it also maximises the amount of carbon gained per water lost.

Overall our results show that water-use efficiency exhibits a strong time-scale dependency in the sense that at longer time-scale meteorological conditions play a smaller role compared to shorter time scale. Moreover, we highlight the role of vegetation in determining carbon-water relation at ecosystem level. Consequently, all predictions of changing carbon-water cycle under changing climate should take into this role and the differences between vegetation types. These results show the strong time-scale dependency of water-use efficiency

F. G. Kuglitsch et al.
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F. G. Kuglitsch et al.
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