A catchment water balance assessment of an abrupt shift in evapotranspiration at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire, USA


Small catchments have served as sentinels of forest ecosystem responses to changes in air quality and climate. The Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire has been tracking catchment water budgets and their controls - meteorology and vegetation - since 1956. Water budgets in four reference catchments indicated an approximately 30% increase in the evapotranspiration (ET) as estimated by the difference between precipitation (P) and runoff (RO) starting in 2010 and continuing through 2019. We analyzed the annual water budgets, cumulative deviations of the daily P, RO, and water budget residual (WBR = P - RO), potential ET, and indicators of subsurface storage to gain greater insight into this shift in the water budgets. The potential ET and the subsurface storage indicators suggest that this change in WBR was primarily due to increasing ET. While multiple long-term hydrological and micrometeorological data sets were used to detect and investigate this change in ET, additional measurements of groundwater storage and soil moisture would enable better estimation of ET within the catchment water balance. Increasing the breadth of long-term measurements across small gauged catchments allows them to serve as more effective sentinels of substantial hydrologic changes like the ET increase that we observed.



Environmental Engineering, 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience, 0905 Civil Engineering, 0907 Environmental Engineering