Energy and water balance response of a vegetated wetland to herbicide treatment of invasive Phragmites australis

Phillip M. Mykleby, John D. Lenters, Gregory J. Cutrell, Kyle S. Herrman, Erkan Istanbulluoglu, Durelle T. Scott, Tracy E. Twine, Christopher J. Kucharik, Tala Awada, Mehmet E. Soylu, Bo Dong

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17 Scopus citations


The energy and water balance of a Phragmites australis dominated wetland in south central Nebraska was analyzed to assess consumptive water use and the potential for "water savings" as a result of vegetation eradication via herbicide treatment. Energy balance measurements were made at the field site for two growing seasons (treated and untreated), including observations of net radiation, heat storage, and sensible heat flux, which was measured using a large-aperture scintillometer. Latent heat flux was calculated as a residual of the energy balance, and comparisons were made between the two growing seasons and with model simulations to examine the relative impacts of vegetation removal and climate variability. Observed ET rates dropped by roughly 32% between the two growing seasons, from a mean of 4.4 ± 0.7 mm day-1 in 2009 (with live vegetation) to 3.0 ± 0.8 mm day-1 in 2010 (with dead P. australis). These results are corroborated by the Agro-IBIS model simulations, and the reduction in ET implies a total "water savings" of 245 mm over the course of the growing season. The significant decreases in ET were accompanied by a more-than-doubling of sensible heat flux, as well as a ~60% increase in heat storage due to decreased LAI. Removal of P. australis was also found to cause measurable changes in the local micrometeorology at the wetland. Consistent with the observed increase in sensible heat flux during 2010, warmer, drier, windier conditions were observed in the dead, P. australis section of the wetland, compared to an undisturbed section of live, native vegetation. Modeling results suggest that the elimination of transpiration in 2010 was partially offset by an increase in surface evaporation, thereby reducing the subsequent water savings by roughly 60%. Thus, the impact of vegetation removal depends on the local climate, depth to groundwater, and management decisions related to regrowth of vegetation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-303
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Agro-IBIS
  • Energy balance
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Phragmites australis
  • Water balance
  • Wetland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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