Short- and long-term evapotranspiration rates at ecological restoration sites along a large river receiving rare flow events

Margaret Shanafield, Hugo Gutiérrez-Jurado, Jesús Eliana Rodríguez-Burgueño, Jorge Ramírez-Hernández, Christopher J. Jarchow, Pamela L. Nagler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Many large rivers around the world no longer flow to their deltas, due to ever greater water withdrawals and diversions for human needs. However, the importance of riparian ecosystems is drawing increasing recognition, leading to the allocation of environmental flows to restore river processes. Accurate estimates of riparian plant evapotranspiration (ET) are needed to understand how the riverine system responds to these rare events and achieve the goals of environmental flows. In 2014, historic environmental flows were released into the Lower Colorado River at Morelos Dam (Mexico); this once perennial but now dry reach is the final stretch to the mighty Colorado River Delta. One of the primary goals was to supply native vegetation restoration sites along the reach with water to help seedlings establish and boost groundwater levels to foster the planted saplings. Patterns in ET before, during, and after the flows are useful for evaluating whether this goal was met and understanding the role that ET plays in this now ephemeral river system. Here, diurnal fluctuations in groundwater levels and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data were used to compare estimates of ET specifically at 3 native vegetation restoration sites during 2014 planned flow events, and MODIS data were used to evaluate long-term (2002–2016) ET responses to restoration efforts at these sites. Overall, ET was generally 0–10 mm d−1 across sites, and although daily ET values from groundwater data were highly variable, weekly averaged estimates were highly correlated with MODIS-derived estimates at most sites. The influence of the 2014 flow events was not immediately apparent in the results, although the process of clearing vegetation and planting native vegetation at the restoration sites was clearly visible in the results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4328-4337
Number of pages10
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017


  • environmental flow
  • evapotranspiration
  • groundwater levels
  • remote sensing
  • riparian restoration


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