University of Waikato

The University of Waikato manages one of three NZAGRC Student Scholarship schemes (the others are managed by Massey and Lincoln universities) and has links back to the NZAGRC science programme.


Low spatial and inter-annual variability of evaporation from a year-round intensively grazed temperate pasture system

J. Pronger, D.I. Campbell, M.J. Clearwater, S. Rutledge, A.M. Wall, L.A. Schipper, Low spatial and inter-annual variability of evaporation from a year-round intensively grazed temperate pasture system, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Volume 232, 2016, Pages 46-58, ISSN 0167-8809,

Ecosystem scale measurements of evaporation (E) from intensively managed pasture systems are important for informing water resource decision making and validation of hydrologic models and remote sensing methods. We measured E from a year round intensively grazed temperate pasture system in New Zealand using the eddy covariance method for three years (2012-2014). Evaporation varied by less than 3% both spatially (770⿿783mm) and temporally (759-776mm) at an annual scale. The low spatial and temporal variation largely occurred because E was strongly controlled by net radiation (r2=0.81, p<0.01, daytime, half-hourly), which did not vary much between sites and years. However, E was strongly limited when volumetric moisture content (VMC) declined below permanent wilting point causing a strong reduction in the decoupling coefficient and an increase in the Bowen ratio. Grazing events appeared to have no effect on E during autumn and winter but reduced E by up to 5% during summer and spring while complete removal of vegetation during autumn herbicide application reduced E by ⿼30%. This implied that over the pasture regrowth period soil water evaporation (ES) could provide up to 70% of E relative to a vegetated site (during autumn) and, given that grazing events removed about 60% of leaf area, these findings suggest ES was likely able to compensate for decreased transpiration post-grazing. Agreement between measured E (EEC) and FAO-56 reference crop E (Eo) was good when soil moisture limitation was not occurring. However, during periods of soil moisture limitation Eo exceeded EEC and a correction factor was needed. We trialled the water stress coefficient (Ks) and a simple three bin VMC correction factor (KVMC) and found the KVMC approach worked better at a daily and monthly scale while both approaches worked well at an annual scale.

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