Water-use efficiency of a poplar plantation in Northern China
The water-use efficiency (WUE) of an ecosystem—defined as the gross ecosystem production (GEP) divided by the evapotranspiration (ET)—is an important index for understanding the coupling of water and carbon and quantifying water–carbon trade-offs in forests. An open-path eddy covariance technique and a microclimate measurement system were deployed to investigate the WUE of a poplar plantation ecosystem in the Daxing District of Beijing, China, during the growing seasons in 2006, 2007, and 2008. We found that WUE values changed diurnally, peaking in early morning and showing a minimumbetween 2 pm and 3 pm. This pattern was regulated by photosynthetically active radiation, saturated vapor pressure deficit, and stomatal opening and closure. WUE had inter-daily variations but no substantial seasonal variation. The WUE decreased with increasing soil water content due to the higher sensitivity of ET than GEP to increased soil moisture. Under moist soil conditions (i.e., relative extractable water content [0.4), GEP was stable and WUE was generally low. These results suggest that the poplar plantation does not effectively use the available soil water for carbon uptake, and that soil moisture is lost to the atmosphere through ET.