The water use of two dominant vegetation communities in a semiarid riparian ecosystem

Russell L. Scott, W. James Shuttleworth, David C. Goodrich, Thomas Maddock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Consumptive water use from riparian evapotranspiration is a large component of many semiarid basins' groundwater budgets - comparable in magnitude to mountain front recharge and surface water discharge. In most long-term groundwater studies the amount of water used by phreatophytes is estimated by empirical formulae and extrapolation of measurements taken elsewhere. These approaches are problematic due to the uncertainties regarding the vegetation's water source (e.g., groundwater or recent precipitation) and its magnitude. Using micrometeorological techniques in this study, surface energy and water fluxes were measured for an annual cycle over two dominant types of vegetation in the riparian floodplain of the San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona. The vegetation communities were a perennial, floodplain sacaton grassland (Sporobolus wrightii) and a tree/shrub grouping composed largely of mesquite (Prosopis velutina). These measurements are compared with estimates from previous studies. Additionally, measurements of soil water content and water table levels are used to infer the dominant sources of the evaporated water. The results indicate that the grassland relied primarily on recent precipitation, while the mesquite obtained water from deeper in the soil profile. Neither appears to be strongly phreatophytic, which suggests that the dominant, natural groundwater withdrawals in the Upper San Pedro Basin are mainly confined to the narrow cottonwood/willow gallery that lines the river. (C) 2000 ElSevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-256
Number of pages16
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Nov 20 2000


  • Biometeorology
  • Bowen ratio
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Phreatophytes
  • Prosopis velutina
  • Riparian corridor
  • Sporobolus wrightii
  • Water budget

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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