Water balance of a tropical woodland ecosystem, Northern Australia: A combination of micro-meteorological, soil physical and groundwater chemical approaches

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Hydrology, 1998, 210 (1-4), pp. 161 - 177
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A combination of micro-meteorological, soil physical and groundwater chemical methods enabled the water balance of a tropical eucalypt savanna ecosystem in Northern Australia to be estimated. Heat pulse and eddy correlation were used to determine overstory and total evapotranspiration, respectively. Measurements of soil water content, matric suction and water table variations were used to determine changes in soil moisture storage throughout the year. Groundwater dating with chlorofluorocarbons was used to estimate net groundwater recharge rates, and stream gauging was used to determine surface runoff. The wet season rainfall of 1585 mm is distributed as: evapotranspiration 810 mm, surface runoff (and shallow subsurface flow) into the river 410 mm, groundwater recharge 200 mm and increase in soil store 165 mm. Of the groundwater recharge, 160 mm enters the stream as baseflow in the wet season, 20 mm enters as baseflow in the dry season, and the balance (20 mm) is distributed to and used by minor vegetation types within the catchment or discharges to the sea. In the dry season, an evapotranspiration of 300 mm comprises 135 mm rainfall and 165 mm from the soil store. Because of the inherent errors of the different techniques, the water balance surplus (estimated at 20 mm) cannot be clearly distinguished from zero. It may also be as much as 140 min. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such diverse methods have been combined to estimate all components of a catchment's water balance.
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