Bruce Johnson


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Crop water use efficiency from eddy covariance methods in cold water-limited regions
Phillip Harder, Warren Helgason, Bruce Johnson, John W. Pomeroy
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 341

Crop–water interactions define productivity in water-limited dryland agricultural production systems in cold regions. Despite the agronomic and economic importance of this relationship there are challenges in quantifying crop water use efficiency (WUE). To understand dynamics driving crop water use and agricultural productivity in these environments, observations of evapotranspiration, carbon assimilation, meteorology, and crop growth were collected over 17 site-years at 5 agricultural sites in the sub-humid continental Canadian Prairies. Eddy-covariance (EC) derived water and carbon fluxes provided a means to comprehensively assess the WUE of current agricultural practices by both physiological (WUEP: g C kg−1 H2O) and agronomic (WUEY): kg yield mm H2O−1 hectare−1) approaches. Mean field scale WUEY for grain yields were 10.4 (Barley), 10.2 (Wheat), 6.0 (Canola), 19.3 (Peas), 12.2 (Lentils) and for silage/forage crops were 23.0 (Barley), 11.9 (Forage), and 20.7 (Corn) (kg yield mm H2O−1 hectare−1). An assessment of environmental factors and their covariance with WUE, utilising a conditional inference tree approach, demonstrated that WUE decreased when crops were under greater evapotranspiration demands. EC-based areal WUE approaches, measuring fluxes over footprints of hundreds of square metres, were compared with more commonly reported point-scale water balance residual approaches (WUEWB) and demonstrated consistently smaller magnitudes. WUEWB was greater than EC-estimated WUEY by an average of 52% and 65% for grain and forage/silage crops respectively. WUEWB also had greater variability than EC estimates, with standard deviations 188% and 128% greater than Barley and Wheat crops, respectively. This comparison highlights the scale dependency of WUE estimation methods, demonstrates considerable uncertainty in point scale water balance approaches due to spatial variability in crop–water interactions, and shows how this variability can be accounted for by EC observations. This improves the understanding of WUE and quantifies its variability in cold continental water-limited climates and provides a means to diagnose improved agricultural water management.

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Phenological assessment of transpiration: The stem-temp approach for determining start and end of season
Magali F. Nehemy, Zoe Pierrat, Jason Maillet, Andrew D. Richardson, J. Stutz, Bruce Johnson, Warren Helgason, Alan Barr, Colin P. Laroque, Jeffrey J. McDonnell
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 331

Field-based assessment of transpiration phenology in boreal tree species is a significant challenge. Here we develop an objective approach that uses stem radius change and its correlation with sapwood temperature to determine the timing of phenological changes in transpiration in mixed evergreen species. We test the stem-temp approach using a five year stem-radius dataset from black spruce (Picea mariana) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) trees in Saskatchewan (2016–2020). We further compare transpiration phenological transition dates from this approach with tower-based phenological assessment from green chromatic coordinate derived from phenocam images, eddy-covariance-derived evapotranspiration and carbon uptake, tower-based measurements of solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence and snowmelt timing. The stem-temp approach identified the start and end of four key transpiration phenological phases: (i) the end of temperature-driven cycles indicating the start of biological activity, (ii) the onset of stem rehydration, (iii) the onset of transpiration, and (iv) the end of transpiration-driven cycles. The proposed method is thus useful for characterizing the timing of changes in transpiration phenology and provides information about distinct processes that cannot be assessed with canopy-level phenological measurements alone.


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Tower‐Based Remote Sensing Reveals Mechanisms Behind a Two‐phased Spring Transition in a Mixed‐Species Boreal Forest
Zoe Pierrat, Magali F. Nehemy, Alexandre Roy, Troy S. Magney, Nicholas C. Parazoo, Colin P. Laroque, Christoforos Pappas, Oliver Sonnentag, Katja Großmann, David R. Bowling, Ulli Seibt, Alexandra Ramirez, Bruce Johnson, Warren Helgason, Alan Barr, J. Stutz
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, Volume 126, Issue 5

The boreal forest is a major contributor to the global climate system, therefore, reducing uncertainties in how the forest will respond to a changing climate is critical. One source of uncertainty is the timing and drivers of the spring transition. Remote sensing can provide important information on this transition, but persistent foliage greenness, seasonal snow cover, and a high prevalence of mixed forest stands (both deciduous and evergreen species) complicate interpretation of these signals. We collected tower-based remotely sensed data (reflectance-based vegetation indices and Solar-Induced Chlorophyll Fluorescence [SIF]), stem radius measurements, gross primary productivity, and environmental conditions in a boreal mixed forest stand. Evaluation of this data set shows a two-phased spring transition. The first phase is the reactivation of photosynthesis and transpiration in evergreens, marked by an increase in relative SIF, and is triggered by thawed stems, warm air temperatures, and increased available soil moisture. The second phase is a reduction in bulk photoprotective pigments in evergreens, marked by an increase in the Chlorophyll-Carotenoid Index. Deciduous leaf-out occurs during this phase, marked by an increase in all remotely sensed metrics. The second phase is controlled by soil thaw. Our results demonstrate that remote sensing metrics can be used to detect specific physiological changes in boreal tree species during the spring transition. The two-phased transition explains inconsistencies in remote sensing estimates of the timing and drivers of spring recovery. Our results imply that satellite-based observations will improve by using a combination of vegetation indices and SIF, along with species distribution information.