Future climate characteristics of the southern Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania, are mainly determined by local land-use and global climate change. Reinforcing increasing dryness throughout the twentieth century, ongoing land transformation processes emphasize the need for a proper understanding of the regional-scale water budget and possible implications on related ecosystem functioning and services. Here, we present an analysis of scintillometer-based evapotranspiration (ET) covering seven distinct habitat types across a massive climate gradient from the colline savanna woodlands to the upper-mountain Helichrysum zone (940 to 3960 m.a.s.l.). Random forest-based mean variable importance indicates an outstanding significance of net radiation (R net) on the observed ET across all elevation levels. Accordingly, topography and frequent cloud/fog events have a dampening effect at high elevations, whereas no such constraints affect the energy and moisture-rich submontane coffee/grassland level. By contrast, long-term moisture availability is likely to impose restrictions upon evapotranspirative net water loss in savanna, which particularly applies to the pronounced dry season. At plot scale, ET can thereby be approximated reasonably using R net, soil heat flux, and to a lesser degree, vapor pressure deficit and rainfall as predictor variables (R 2 0.59 to 1.00). While multivariate regression based on pooled meteorological data from all plots proves itself useful for predicting hourly ET rates across a broader range of ecosystems (R 2 = 0.71), additional gains in explained variance can be achieved when vegetation characteristics as seen from the NDVI are considered (R 2 = 0.87). To sum up, our results indicate that valuable insights into land cover-specific ET dynamics, including underlying drivers, may be derived even from explicitly short-term measurements in an ecologically highly diverse landscape.
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 23, 2017
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