Articles | Volume 32
11 Dec 2012
 | 11 Dec 2012

A weather dependent approach to estimate the annual course of vegetation parameters for water balance simulations on the meso- and macroscale

K. Förster, M. Gelleszun, and G. Meon

Abstract. In order to simulate long-term water balances hydrologic models have to be parameterized for several types of vegetation. Furthermore, a seasonal dependence of vegetation parameters has to be accomplished for a successful application. Many approaches neglect inter-annual variability and shifts due to climate change. In this paper a more comprehensive approach from literature was evaluated and applied to long-term water balance simulations, which incorporates temperature, humidity and maximum bright sunshine hours per day to calculate a growing season index (GSI). A validation of this threshold-related approach is carried out by comparisons with normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) data and observations from the phenological network in the state of Lower Saxony. The annual courses of GSI and NDVI show a good agreement for numerous sites. A comparison with long-term observations of leaf onset and offset taken from the phenological network also revealed a good model performance. The observed trends indicating a shift toward an earlier leaf onset of 3 days per decade in the lowlands were reproduced very well. The GSI approach was implemented in the hydrologic model Panta Rhei. For the common vegetation parameters like leaf area index, vegetated fraction, albedo and the vegetation height a minimum value and a maximum value were defined for each land surface class. These parameters were scaled with the computed GSI for every time step to obtain a seasonal course for each parameter. Two simulations were carried out each for the current climate and for future climate scenarios. The first run was parameterized with a static annual course of vegetation parameters. The second run incorporates the new GSI approach. For the current climate both models produced comparable results regarding the water balance. Although there are no significant changes in modeled mean annual evapotranspiration and runoff depth in climate change scenarios, mean monthly values of these water balance components are shifted toward a lower runoff in spring and higher values during the winter months.