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An evaluation of the impacts of energy tree plantations on water resources in the United Kingdom under present and future UKCIP02 climate scenarios

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ian Calder, Dr Jennifer Hazelton



The Hydrological Land Use Change model was used to assess the range of water resource impacts associated with four potential energy tree species (Eucalyptus nitens, Eucalyptus gunnii, Nothofagus sp., and Fraxinus excelsior) at eight United Kingdom locations under present and future, Environment Agency Rainfall and Weather Impacts Generator, climate scenarios generated using UK Climate Impacts Programme 2002 (UKCIP02). Parameter values were derived using expert opinion and interpolation because of limited data. For Fraxinus excelsior, there are questions concerning the unusual, in a world context, published findings that evaporation from a tree crop is less than that from grass. Model predictions indicated that under the present climate all tree species, excepting Fraxinus excelsior, at all sites have greater mean annual evaporation, (8 to 84%) and reduced water yields (-6 to -97%) compared with grass. The predicted increase in tree evaporation arises from parameter values reflecting both increased rainfall interception and higher transpiration due to deeper rooting depths. Under future climate scenarios, (1) "potential annual yield'' (difference between actual rainfall and potential evaporation) will decrease, becoming negative at all studied sites in England and Wales by 2080; ( 2) at drier sites and for species with highest evaporation rates, E. nitens and Nothofagus, evaporation rates will decrease; (3) at wetter sites and for all species, evaporation rates will increase; (4) at all sites and for all species, water yields will decrease; (5) differences between species remain the same, with evaporation rates increasing and water yield decreasing in the order Fraxinus excelsior, grass, E. gunnii, Nothofagus, and E. Nitens; and (6) there is an overall trend through time toward convergence in water yields from trees and grass. If higher water yield predictions for Fraxinus excelsior are proved correct, this would represent an attractive land use option for water and energy production. Field research is required to validate these predictions. Assuming future climate changes match those predicted, soil moisture deficits will occur for longer periods during the year and will become increasingly limiting for evaporation. The monitoring of soil moisture may then provide one of the most sensitive methods of both determining model parameter values and testing predictions of differences in evaporation between species and changes in evaporation over time.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Calder IR, Nisbet T, Harrison JA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water Resources Research

Year: 2009

Volume: 45

Pages: W00A17

Date deposited: 30/11/2009

ISSN (print): 0043-1397

ISSN (electronic): 1944-7973

Publisher: American Geophysical Union


DOI: 10.1029/2007WR006657


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