Project Title: Scaling evapotranspiration from plant to catchment level under present and future climate. Implications for water resources and flooding
Researcher: Dr Saté Ahmad
Saté is investigating the impact of elevated carbon dioxide levels and past vegetation changes on evapotranspiration and streamflow in Irish river catchments. This research will focus on a much underestimated part of the water cycle at a catchment scale – the role that vegetation type and behaviour (ecophysiology) plays on streamflow and runoff historically, today and in the near future under climate change. The main aim is to bring together a unique understanding from the plant sciences and catchment hydrology to better characterize the properties of vegetation and vegetation responses to global change that affect evapotranspiration and runoff. Although transpiration (T) can account for anywhere between 30 and 80% of the total evapotranspiration (ET) budget, many existing catchment hydrology models use prescribed model ‘crop plants’ to evaluate or simulate the effect of natural highly variant vegetation on long-term trends in past stream flow. This study will use existing data sets generated by PI McElwain’s lab on different plant species resistances to water loss (Purcell et al. 2018; Murray et al. 2019) to improve catchment hydrology models regularly used in PI Gill’s lab. The major outcomes of this research will be (1) better attribution studies on the impact of past vegetation change on historical trends in Irish and international stream flow and (2) improved future predictions of water resource availability and flood risk for case study Irish catchments.