Measurement and modelling of evapotranspiration in three fynbos vegetation types
Many studies have investigated the water relations of indigenous plants in the fynbos shrublands of the Cape, South Africa. These have mainly focused on understanding the mechanisms by which individual plant species respond to droughts, the frequency and severity of which is expected to increase due to climate change. However, comparatively little information exists on the dynamics of water use by indigenous plants in the region, and, in particular, how water use varies seasonally and between sites. In this study we determined water use by 3 fynbos vegetation types growing at 4 different sites, namely: (i) lowland Atlantis Sand Plain fynbos growing on deep sandy soils, (ii) Kogelberg Sandstone fynbos growing in a riparian zone on deep alluvial soils, (iii) dryland Kogelberg Sandstone fynbos growing on shallow sandy soils at a montane site, and (iv) alluvial Swartland fynbos growing in clayey soils. Evapotranspiration (ET) was quantified at each site during specific periods using a boundary layer scintillometer and energy balance system. A simple dual source model in which the stand ET was calculated as the algebraic sum of outputs from soil evaporation and transpiration sub-models was used to scale up the ET measurements to annual values. The data showed large differences in ET depending on site characteristics and on plant attributes. Dense stands of riparian Sandstone Fynbos had an annual ET of 1 460 mm which exceeded the reference ET of 1 346 mm. Dryland Sandstone Fynbos used only 551 mm of water per year while the Sand Plain Fynbos’ annual ET was 1 031 mm, which was similar to the reference ET of 1 059 mm. We conclude that some indigenous plant species use large volumes of water which should be accounted for in, e.g., groundwater recharge estimates, and calculations of incremental water gains after clearing alien invasive plants, among other applications.
Keywords: Evapotranspiration, fynbos, scintillometer, Western Cape