Measuring surface energy and evapotranspiration across Caribbean mangrove forests
Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:45 PM
Coastal mangroves lose large amounts of water through evapotranspiration (ET) that can be equivalent to the amount of annual rainfall in certain years. Satellite remote sensing has been used to estimate surface energy and ET variability in many forested ecosystems, yet has been widely overlooked in mangrove forests. Using a combination of long-term datasets (30-year) acquired from the NASA Landsat 5 and 7 satellite databases, the present study investigated ET and surface energy balance variability between two mangrove forest sites in the Caribbean: 1) Everglades National Park (ENP; Florida, USA) and 2) Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (SKBR; Quintana Roo, Mexico). A satellite-derived surface energy balance model was used to estimate ET in tall and scrub mangroves environments at ENP and SKBR. Results identified significant differences in soil heat flux measurements and ET between the tall and scrub mangrove environments. Scrub mangroves exhibited the highest soil heat flux coincident with the lowest biophysical indices (i.e., Fractional Vegetation Cover, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, and Soil-Adjusted Vegetation Index) and ET rates. Mangrove damage and mortality was observed on the satellite images following strong tropical storms and associated with anthropogenic modifications and resulted in low values in spectral vegetation indices, higher soil heat flux, and higher ET. Recovery of the spectral characteristics, soil heat flux and ET was within 1-2 years following hurricane disturbance while, degradation caused by human disturbance persisted for many years. Remotely sensed ET of mangrove forests can provide estimates over a few decades and provide us with some understanding of how these environments respond to disturbances to the landscape in periods where no ground data exists or in locations that are difficult to access. Moreover, relationships between energy and water balance components developed for the coastal mangroves of Florida and Mexico could be extrapolated to other mangroves systems in the Caribbean to measure changes caused by natural events and human modifications.