Energy and water balance of two contrasting loblolly pine plantations on the lower coastal plain of North Carolina, USA
During 2005–2007, we used the eddy covariance and associated hydrometric methods to construct energy and water budgets along a chronosequence of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantations that included a mid-rotation stand (LP) (i.e., 13–15 years old) and a recently established stand on a clearcut site (CC) (i.e., 4–6 years old) in Eastern North Carolina. Our central objective was to quantify the differences in both energy and water balances between the two contrasting stands and understand the underlining mechanisms of environmental controls. We found that the LP site received about 20% more net radiation (Rn) due to its lower averaged albedo (a) of 0.25, compared with that at the CC (a = 0.34). The mean monthly averaged Bowen ratios (b) at the LP site were 0.89 0.7, significantly (p = 0.02) lower than at the CC site (1.45 1.2). Higher net radiation resulted in a 28% higher (p = 0.02) latent heat flux (LE) for ecosystem evapotranspiration at the LP site, but there was no difference in sensible heat flux (H) between the two contrasting sites. The annual total evapotranspiration (ET) at the LP site and CC site was estimated as 1011–1226 and 755–855 mm year1, respectively. The differences in ET rates between the two contrasting sites occurred mostly during the non-growing seasons and/or dry periods, and they were small during peak growing seasons or wet periods. Higher net radiation and biomass in LP were believed to be responsible to the higher ET. The monthly ET/Grass Reference ET ratios differed significantly across site and season. The annual ET/P ratio for the LP and CC were estimated as 0.70–1.13 and 0.60–0.88, respectively, indicating higher runoff production from the CC site than the LP site. This study implied that reforestation practices reduced surface albedos and thus increased available energy, but they did not necessarily increase energy for warming the atmosphere in the coastal plain region where soil water was generally not limited. This study showed the highly variable response of energy and water balances to forest management due to climatic variability.