Ecohydrological modelling with EcH2O-iso to quantify forest and grassland effects on water partitioning and flux ages

Audrey Douinot, Doerthe Tetzlaff, Marco Maneta, Sylvain Kuppel, Hubert Schulte-Bisping, Chris Soulsby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


We used the new process-based, tracer-aided ecohydrological model EcH2O-iso to assess the effects of vegetation cover on water balance partitioning and associated flux ages under temperate deciduous beech forest (F) and grassland (G) at an intensively monitored site in Northern Germany. Unique, multicriteria calibration, based on measured components of energy balance, hydrological function and biomass accumulation, resulted in good simulations reproducing measured soil surface temperatures, soil water content, transpiration, and biomass production. Model results showed the forest “used” more water than the grassland; of 620 mm average annual precipitation, losses were higher through interception (29% under F, 16% for G) and combined soil evaporation and transpiration (59% F, 47% G). Consequently, groundwater (GW) recharge was enhanced under grassland at 37% (~225 mm) of precipitation compared with 12% (~73 mm) for forest. The model tracked the ages of water in different storage compartments and associated fluxes. In shallow soil horizons, the average ages of soil water fluxes and evaporation were similar in both plots (~1.5 months), though transpiration and GW recharge were older under forest (~6 months compared with ~3 months for transpiration, and ~12 months compared with ~10 months for GW). Flux tracking using measured chloride data as a conservative tracer provided independent support for the modelling results, though highlighted effects of uncertainties in forest partitioning of evaporation and transpiration. By tracking storage—flux—age interactions under different land covers, EcH2O-iso could quantify the effects of vegetation on water partitioning and age distributions. Given the likelihood of drier, warmer summers, such models can help assess the implications of land use for water resource availability to inform debates over building landscape resilience to climate change. Better conceptualization of soil water mixing processes and improved calibration data on leaf area index and root distribution appear obvious respective modelling and data needs for improved simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2174-2191
Number of pages18
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number16
StatePublished - Jul 30 2019


  • ecohydrology
  • forest hydrology
  • tracer-aided models
  • tracers


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