Interannual and seasonal variation in fluxes of water and carbon dioxide from a riparian woodland ecosystem

Russell L. Scott, Eric A. Edwards, W. James Shuttleworth, Travis E. Huxman, Christopher Watts, David C. Goodrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Fluxes of water, energy and carbon dioxide (CO2) were measured using the eddy covariance technique over a mesquite (Prosopis velutina) woodland along the San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona for the entire growing seasons of 2001 and 2002, between the last freeze event of spring and the first of fall. Although the general pattern of ecosystem response to climate forcing was similar in both years, latent heat and CO2 fluxes showed significant variations between and within the growing seasons. The main differences between the two years were a consequence of an extended drought that lasted from October 2001 to July 2002. Most of the within season variability was attributable to the timing and magnitude of mid-summer precipitation associated with the North American Monsoon. Following new tree leaf production and prior to the monsoon onset, there was little precipitation; daytime air temperatures were high and relative humidity low. Evapotranspiration and water level data indicated that the mesquite trees always had ready access to groundwater, though they were likely supplementing this with vadose zone soil water when abundant. Nonetheless, decreases in afternoon transpiration and CO2 uptake suggest stomatal regulation of leaf gas exchange, possibly in response to the high vapor pressure deficit. Because near-surface soil moisture was limited prior to the summer rains, ecosystem respiration was low and there was little evapotranspiration from understory plants and soil. With the arrival of the monsoon rains, understory vegetation activity and, consequently, total ecosystem evapotranspiration increased. Total ecosystem photosynthesis also increased, but the net uptake of carbon decreased, due to enhanced respiration from the abundant carbon sources, stimulated by the precipitation and warm temperatures. The nighttime measurements of CO2 fluxes, although of questionable accuracy, imply the ecosystem was a net sink of CO2 for most of the two growing seasons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-84
Number of pages20
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 20 2004


  • Carbon dioxide exchange
  • Eddy covariance
  • Energy balance
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Mesquite
  • Prosopis velutina
  • Riparian vegetation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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