Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Uncertainties in transpiration estimates

Abstract

arising from S. Jasechko et al. Nature 496, 347–350 (2013)

How best to assess the respective importance of plant transpiration over evaporation from open waters, soils and short-term storage such as tree canopies and understories (interception) has long been debated. On the basis of data from lake catchments, Jasechko et al.1 conclude that transpiration accounts for 80–90% of total land evaporation globally (Fig. 1a). However, another choice of input data, together with more conservative accounting of the related uncertainties, reduces and widens the transpiration ratio estimation to 35–80%. Hence, climate models do not necessarily conflict with observations, but more measurements on the catchment scale are needed to reduce the uncertainty range. There is a Reply to this Brief Communications Arising by Jasechko, S. et al. Nature 506, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12926 (2014).

a–c, Box plots are calculated using a simplified Monte Carlo simulation of equation (4)1 with data from Jasechko et al .1 (a), and with the same data as in a but with Q = 39,600 ± 5,100 km3 per year and xP = 20,100 ± 9,800 km3 per year (b), and with the same data as in b but with dE = 75 ± 60‰ (c). The blue box indicates the 25th and 75th percentiles with the median in red. The error bars indicate the minimum and maximum values. The red crosses indicate outliers (3/2 times the central box).

PowerPoint slide

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it

$39.95

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

References

  1. Jasechko, S. et al. Terrestrial water fluxes dominated by transpiration. Nature 496, 347–350 (2013)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Oki, T. & Kanae, S. Global hydrological cycles and world water resources. Science 313, 1068–1072 (2006)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Dai, A. & Trenberth, K. E. Estimates of freshwater discharge from continents: latitudinal and seasonal variations. J. Hydrometeorol. 3, 660–687 (2002)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Syed, T. H., Famiglietti, J. S., Chambers, D. P., Willis, J. K. & Hilburn, K. Satellite-based global-ocean mass balance estimates of interannual variability and emerging trends in continental freshwater discharge. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 17916–17921 (2010)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Wang, D., Wang, G. & Anagnostou, E. N. Evaluation of canopy interception schemes in land surface models. J. Hydrol. 347, 308–318 (2007)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Dirmeyer, P. A. et al. GSWP-2: multimodel analysis and implications for our perception of the land surface. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 87, 1381–1397 (2006)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  7. Miralles, D. G., Gash, J. H., Holmes, T. R. H., de Jeu, R. A. M. & Dolman, A. J. Global canopy interception from satellite observations. J. Geophys. Res. 115, 27 (2010)

    Google Scholar 

  8. Gerrits, A. M. J., Pfister, L. & Savenije, H. H. G. Spatial and temporal variability of canopy and forest floor interception in a beech forest. Hydrol. Processes 24, 3011–3025 (2010)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Brooks, J. R., Barnard, H. R., Coulombe, R. & McDonnell, J. J. Ecohydrologic separation of water between trees and streams in a Mediterranean climate. Nature Geosci. 3, 100–104 (2010)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Hrachowitz, M., Savenije, H., Bogaard, T. A., Tetzlaff, D. & Soulsby, C. What can flux tracking teach us about water age distribution patterns and their temporal dynamics? Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 17, 533–564 (2013)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. Kendall, C. & McDonnell, J. J. Isotope Tracers in Catchment Hydrology (Elsevier, 1998)

    Google Scholar 

  12. Keenan, T. F. et al. Increase in forest water-use efficiency as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise. Nature 499, 324–327 (2013)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Yuan, W. et al. Global estimates of evapotranspiration and gross primary production based on MODIS and global meteorology data. Remote Sens. Environ. 114, 1416–1431 (2010)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Welp, L. R. et al. Interannual variability in the oxygen isotopes of atmospheric CO2 driven by El Niño. Nature 477, 579–582 (2011)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Zhang, S., Wen, X., Wang, J., Yu, G. & Sun, X. The use of stable isotopes to partition evapotranspiration fluxes into evaporation and transpiration. Acta Ecol. Sin. 30, 201–209 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

All authors contributed equally, and all authors contributed to the data analysis.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. M. J. Coenders-Gerrits.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Competing Financial Interests Declared none.

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Coenders-Gerrits, A., van der Ent, R., Bogaard, T. et al. Uncertainties in transpiration estimates. Nature 506, E1–E2 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12925

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12925

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing