Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
24 Feb 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Improved SWAT vegetation growth module for tropical ecosystem
Tadesse Alemayehu1, Ann van Griensven1,2, and Willy Bauwens1 1Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Department of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, Brussel, Belgium
2UNESCO-IHE, Department of Water Science and Engineering, Delft, The Netherlands
Abstract. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) is a globally applied river basin eco-hydrological simulator in a wide spectrum of studies, ranging from land use change and climate change impacts studies to research for the development of best water management practices. However, SWAT has limitations in simulating the seasonal growth cycles for trees and perennial vegetation in tropics, where the major plant growth controlling factor is the rainfall (via soil moisture) rather than temperature. Our goal is to improve the vegetation growth module of the SWAT model for simulating the vegetation parameters such as the leaf area index (LAI) for tropics. Therefore, we present a modified SWAT version for the tropics (SWAT-T) that uses of a simple but robust soil moisture index (SMI) – a quotient of the rainfall (P) and reference evapotranspiration (PET) – to initiate a new growing season after a defined dry season. Our results for the Mara Basin (Kenya/Tanzania) show that the SWAT-T simulated LAI corresponds well with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) LAI for evergreen forest, savanna grassland and shrubs, indicating that the SMI is a reliable proxy to dynamically initiate a new growing cycle. The water balance components (evapotranspiration and flow) simulated by the SWAT-T exhibit a good agreement with remote sensing-based evapotranspiration (RS-ET) and observed flow. The SWAT-T simulator with the proposed improved vegetation growth module for tropical ecosystem could be a robust tool for several applications including land use and climate change impact studies.

Citation: Alemayehu, T., van Griensven, A., and Bauwens, W.: Improved SWAT vegetation growth module for tropical ecosystem, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Tadesse Alemayehu et al.
Tadesse Alemayehu et al.


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