Hydrological models featuring root water uptake usually do not include compensation mechanisms such that reductions in uptake from dry layers are compensated by an increase in uptake from wetter layers. We developed a physically based root water uptake model with an implicit compensation mechanism. Based on an expression for the matric flux potential (M) as a function of the distance to the root, and assuming a depth-independent value of M at the root surface, uptake per layer is shown to be a function of layer bulk M, root surface M, and a weighting factor that depends on root length density and root radius. Actual transpiration can be calculated from the sum of layer uptake rates. The proposed reduction function (PRF) was built into the SWAP model, and predictions were compared to those made with the Feddes reduction function (FRF). Simulation results were tested against data from Canada (continuous spring wheat [(Triticum aestivum L.]) and Germany (spring wheat, winter barley [Hordeum vulgare L.], sugarbeet [Beta vulgaris L.], winter wheat rotation). For the Canadian data, the root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) for water content in the upper soil layers was very similar for FRF and PRF; for the deeper layers, RMSEP was smaller for PRF. For the German data, RMSEP was lower for PRF in the upper layers and was similar for both models in the deeper layers. In conclusion, but dependent on the properties of the data sets available for testing, the incorporation of the new reduction function into SWAP was successful, providing new capabilities for simulating compensated root water uptake without increasing the number of input parameters or degrading model performance.

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