WRIR 00-4217

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German, E.R., 2000, Regional Evaluation of Evapotranspiration in the Everglades: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 00-4217, 48 p.


Nine sites in the Florida Everglades were selected and instrumented for collection of data necessary for evapotranspiration-determination using the Bowen-ratio energy-budget method. The sites were selected to represent the sawgrass or cattail marshes, wet prairie, and open-water areas that constitute most of the natural Everglades system. At each site, measurements necessary for evapotranspiration (ET) calculation and modeling were automatically made and stored on-site at 15- or 30-minute intervals. Data collected included air temperature and humidity at two heights, wind speed and direction, incoming solar radiation, net solar radiation, water level and temperature, soil moisture content, soil temperature, soil heat flux, and rainfall. Data summarized in this report were collected from January 1996 through December 1997, and the development of site-specific and regional models of ET for this period is described.

Latent heat flux is the energy flux density equivalent of the ET rate. Modified Priestley-Taylor models of latent heat flux as a function of selected independent variables were developed at each site. These models were used to fill in periods of missing latent heat flux measurement, and to develop regional models of the entire Everglades region. The regional models may be used to estimate ET in wet prairie, sawgrass or cattail marsh, and open-water portions of the natural Everglades system. The models are not applicable to forested areas or to the brackish areas adjacent to Florida Bay.

Two types of regional models were developed. One type of model uses measurements of available energy at a site, together with incoming solar energy and water depth, to estimate hourly ET. This available-energy model requires site data for net radiation, water heat storage, and soil heat flux, as well as data for incoming solar radiation and water depth. The other type of model requires only incoming solar energy, air temperature, and water depth data to provide estimates of hourly ET. The second model thus uses data that are more readily available than the data required for the available-energy model.

Computed ET mean annual totals for all nine sites for the 1996-97 period ranged from 42.4 inches per year at a site where the water level is below land surface for several months each year to 57.4 inches per year at an open-water site with no emergent vegetation.

Although the density of photosynthetically-active plant leaves has been shown to relate directly to ET in some studies, it does not appear to relate directly to ET in the Everglades, based on comparison of annual ET data with leaf-area index, defined as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), data from satellite imagery. NDVI and ET appear to be inversely related in the Everglades. The greatest ET rates occurred at open-water sites where the NDVI data indicated the lowest leaf-area index. Among the remaining vegetated sites, there is no clear relation between ET and NDVI, though the highest ET rate corresponded to the lowest NDVI and one of the lowest ET rates corresponded to the highest NDVI value.

The variation in ET follows a seasonal pattern, with lowest monthly ET totals occurring in December through February, and highest ET occurring in May through August. The greatest range in monthly ET among all nine sites for the 2-year period occurred at site 3: from 1.81 inches in December 1997 to 6.84 inches in July 1996.

A study to compare the Bowen-ratio/energy balance method of ET measurement with the eddy-correlation method was done at one site from June 22, 1998, through September 28, 1998. This comparison indicated that both methods gave comparable values of the Bowen ratio, but there was a considerable difference in available energy measured by the two methods. The mean of all 30-minute measured turbulent heat fluxes from the eddy-correlation apparatus for June 22 through September 29, 1998, was 137.4 watts per square meter, and the mean of the corresponding measured energy was 163.6 watts per square meter, or about 20 percent greater. The disagreement in mean energy fluxes measured by the two methods is problematical and is not fully understood. Although the difference seems to be related to friction velocity, and is practically non-existent at values of friction velocity greater than 0.3 meter per second, the "correctness" of either method cannot be determined with the data available.