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Keywords:

  • dewfall;
  • semiarid;
  • water balance;
  • Stipa tenacissima

Abstract

Dewfall is widely recognized as an important source of water for many ecosystems, especially in arid and semiarid areas, contributing to improve daily and annual water balances and leading to increased interest in its study in recent years. In this study, occurrence, frequency and amount of dewfall were measured from January 2007 to December 2010 (4 years study) to find out its contribution to the local water balance in a Mediterranean semiarid steppe ecosystem dominated by scattered tussocks of Stipa tenacissima (Balsa Blanca, Almería, SE Spain). For this purpose, we developed a dewfall measurement method, ‘The Combined Dewfall Estimation Method’ (CDEM). This method consists of a combination of the potential dewfall model, i.e. the single-source Penman–Monteith evaporation model simplified for water condensation, with information from leaf wetness sensors, rain gauge data, soil surface temperature and dew point temperature. To assess the reliability of the CDEM, dewfall was measured in situ using weighing microlysimeters during a period of 3 months. Daily micrometeorological variables involved in a dewfall event were analysed in order to assess the significance of dewfall at this site. Dewfall condensation was recorded on 78% of the nights during the study period. Average monthly dewfall duration was 9.6 ± 3.2 h per night. Average dewfall was 0.17 ± 0.10 mm per night and was mostly dependent on dewfall duration. Dewfall episodes were longer in late autumn and winter and shorter during spring. Annual dewfall represented the 16%, 23%, 15% and 9% of rainfall on 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively. Furthermore, when a wet period was compared to a dry one, the dewfall contribution to the water balance at the site was found to be 8% and 94%, respectively. Our results highlight the relevance of dewfall as a constant source of water in arid ecosystems, as well as its significant contribution to the local water balance, mainly during dry periods where it may represent the only source of water at the site. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.