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Evapotranspiration over agroforestry sites in Germany (2020)

Markwitz C., Knohl A., Siebicke L.

Biogeosciences, 17 (20), 5183-5208



Abstract. In the past few years, the interest in growing crops and trees for bioenergy production has increased. One agricultural practice is the mixed cultivation of fast-growing trees and annual crops or perennial grasslands on the same piece of land, which is referred to as one type of agroforestry (AF). The inclusion of tree strips into the agricultural landscape has been shown – on the one hand – to lead to reduced wind speeds and higher carbon sequestration above ground and in the soil. On the other hand, concerns have been raised about increased water losses to the atmosphere via evapotranspiration (ET). Therefore, we hypothesise that short rotation coppice agroforestry systems have higher water losses to the atmosphere via ET compared to monoculture (MC) agriculture without trees. In order to test the hypothesis, the main objective was to measure the actual evapotranspiration of five AF systems in Germany and compare those to five monoculture systems in the close vicinity of the AF systems. We measured actual ET at five AF sites in direct comparison to five monoculture sites in northern Germany in 2016 and 2017. We used an eddy covariance energy balance (ECEB) set-up and a low-cost eddy covariance (EC-LC) set-up to measure actual ET over each AF and each MC system. We conducted direct eddy covariance (EC) measurement campaigns with approximately 4 weeks' duration for method validation. Results from the short-term measurement campaigns showed a high agreement between ETEC-LC and ETEC, indicated by slopes of a linear regression analysis between 0.86 and 1.3 (R2 between 0.7 and 0.94) across sites. Root mean square errors of LEEC-LC vs. LEEC (where LE is the latent heat flux) were half as small as LEECEB vs. LEEC, indicating a superior agreement of the EC-LC set-up with the EC set-up compared to the ECEB set-up. With respect to the annual sums of ET over AF and MC, we observed small differences between the two land uses. We interpret this as being an effect of compensating the small-scale differences in ET next to and in between the tree strips for ET measurements on the system scale. Most likely, the differences in ET rates next to and in between the tree strips are of the same order of magnitude, but of the opposite sign, and compensate each other throughout the year. Differences between annual sums of ET from the two methods were of the same order of magnitude as differences between the two land uses. Compared to the effect of land use and different methods on ET, we found larger mean evapotranspiration indices (∑ET/∑P) across sites for a drier than normal year (2016) compared to a wet year (2017). This indicates that we were able to detect differences in ET due to different ambient conditions with the applied methods, rather than the potentially small effect of AF on ET. We conclude that agroforestry has not resulted in an increased water loss to the atmosphere, indicating that agroforestry in Germany can be a land-use alternative to monoculture agriculture without trees. SIGNAL