Modelling and observation of hedgerow transpiration effect on water balance components at the hillslope scale in Brittany


Z. Thomas, Agrocampus Ouest, Laboratoire Physique et spatialisation numérique, 65 rue de Saint-Brieuc, 35042, Rennes Cedex, France.



Vegetation has a major influence on the water and energy balance of the earth's surface. In the last century, human activities have modified land use, inducing a consequent change in albedo and potential evapotranspiration. Linear vegetation structures (hedgerows, shelterbelts, open woodland, etc) were particularly abundant but have declined considerably over the past several decades. In this context, it is important to quantify their effect on water and energy balance both on a global scale (climate change and weather prediction) and on a local scale (soil column, hillslope and watershed). The main objective of this study was to quantify the effect of hedgerows on the water cycle by evaluating spatial and temporal variations of water balance components of a hillslope crossed by a hedgerow. Water flow simulation was performed using Hydrus-2D to emphasize the importance of transpiration in the water balance and to evaluate water extraction from groundwater. Model validation was performed by comparing simulated and observed soil matrix potentials and groundwater levels. Hedgerow transpiration was calculated from sap flow measurements of four trees. Water balance components calculated with a one-dimensional water balance equation were compared with simulations. Simulation runs with and without tree root uptake underlined the effect of hedgerow transpiration, increasing capillary rise and decreasing drainage. Results demonstrated that the spatial and temporal variability of water balance components was related to the hedgerow presence as well as to the meteorological context. The relations between transpiration, groundwater proximity and soil-water availability determined the way in which water balance components were affected. Increased capillary rise and decreased drainage near hedges were related to the high transpiration of trees identified in this study. Transpiration reached twice the potential evapotranspiration when groundwater level and precipitation amounts were high. Water balance analysis showed that transpiration was a substantial component, representing 40% of total water output. These results may offer support for improving hydrological models by including the effect of land use and land cover on hydrological processes. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.