A review of approaches for evapotranspiration partitioning

Deliana Kool, N. Agam, N. Lazarovitch, J. L. Heitman, T. J. Sauer, A. Ben-Gal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Partitioning of evapotranspiration (ET) into evaporation from the soil (E) and transpiration through the stomata of plants (T) is challenging but important in order to assess biomass production and the allocation of increasingly scarce water resources. Generally, T is the desired component with the water being used to enhance plant productivity; whereas, E is considered a source of water loss or inefficiency. The magnitude of E is expected to be quite significant in sparsely vegetated systems, particularly in dry areas or in very wet systems such as surface irrigated crops and wetlands. In these cases, ET partitioning is fundamental to accurately monitor system hydrology and to improve water management practices. This paper aims to evaluate and summarize available methods currently used to separately determine E and T components. We presuppose that, to test the accuracy of ET partitioning methods (measurements and/or modeling), all three components, i.e., E, T and ET, must be estimated independently, but recognize that sometimes one of the components is taken as the residual of the other two. Models that were validated against measurements for their ability to partition between E and T are briefly discussed. To compare approaches, 52 ET partitioning studies were considered regarding estimates of the relative amount of E and for success of agreement in closing the ET= E+. T equation. The E/. ET ratio was found to exceed 30% in 32 of the studies, which confirms the hypothesis that E often constitutes a large fraction of ET and deserves independent consideration. Only 20 studies estimated E and T as well as ET, and had varied results. A number of studies succeeded to estimate E+. T to within 10% of measured ET. Future challenges include development of models simulating the components of ET separately and advancement of methods for continuous measurement of E, T and/or the ratio between the two.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)56-70
Number of pages15
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2014


  • Energy balance
  • Evaporation
  • Sparse canopy
  • Transpiration
  • Water balance
  • Water use efficiency

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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