Drought and thinning have limited impacts on evapotranspiration in a managed pine plantation on the southeastern United States coastal plain


© 2018 Managed and natural coastal plain forests in the humid southeastern United States exchange large amounts of water and energy with the atmosphere through the evapotranspiration (ET) process. ET plays an important role in controlling regional hydrology, climate, and ecosystem productivity. However, long-term studies on the impacts of forest management and climatic variability on forest ET are rare, and our understanding of both external and internal drivers on seasonal and interannual ET variability is incomplete. Using techniques centered on an eddy covariance method, the present study measured year-round ET flux and associated hydrometeorological variables in a drained loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) plantation on the lower coastal plain of North Carolina, U.S. We found that annual ET was relatively stable (1076 ± 104 mm) in comparison to precipitation (P) (1168 ± 216 mm) during the 10-year study period when the site experienced extreme climate (2007–2008) and forest thinning (2009). At the seasonal time scale, mean ET/P varied between 0.41 and 1.51, with a mean value of 1.12 ± 0.23 and 0.72 ± 0.16 for the growing and dormant seasons, respectively. The extreme drought during 2007–2008 (mean annual P, 854 mm) only resulted in a slight decrease (∼8%) in annual ET owing to the shallow groundwater common to the study area. Although changes in leaf area index and canopy structure were large after the stand was 50% thinned in the fall of 2009, mean annual ET was similar and averaged 1055 mm and 1104 mm before (2005, 2006 and 2009) and after (2010–2015) thinning, respectively. Data suggested that annual ET recovered within two years of the thinning as a result of rapid canopy closure and growth of understory. Further analysis indicated that available energy was the key driver of ET: approximately 69% and 61% of the monthly variations in ET were explained by net radiation during the dormant and growing seasons, respectively. Overall, we concluded that drought and forest thinning had limited impacts on seasonal and annual ET in this energy limited forest ecosystem with shallow groundwater. The results from this study help to better understand regional ecohydrological processes and projecting potential effects of forest management and extreme climate on water and carbon cycles.






Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Liu, Xiaodong, Ge Sun, Bhaskar Mitra, Asko Noormets, Michael J Gavazzi, Jean-Christophe Domec, Dennis W Hallema, Jiyue Li, et al. (2018). Drought and thinning have limited impacts on evapotranspiration in a managed pine plantation on the southeastern United States coastal plain. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 262. pp. 14–23. 10.1016/j.agrformet.2018.06.025 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/17323.

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Jean Christophe Domec

Visiting Professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment

Bordeaux Sciences Agro in FRANCE (primary appointment)

Discovery of knowledge in Plant water relations, ecosystem ecology and ecohydrology, with special focus on: - Long-distance water transport under future climate; - Drought tolerance and avoidance; - Patterns of changes in structural and functional traits within individual plants. My goal as a researcher is to improve the fundamental science understanding of how plants and terrestrial ecosystems respond to climate changes, and to provide tree breeders with policy-relevant information. I have carried out research on interactions between soil water and plant water use in contrasting ecosystems, in cooperation with scientists at Bordeaux Sciences Agro in FRANCE (primary appointment), Duke University, Oregon State University, and the USDA Forest Service, Southern Global Change Program, recently renamed EFETAC (Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center).

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.