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  1. Abstract

    Increasing climate aridity and drought, exacerbated by global warming, are increasing risks for western United States of America (U.S.A.) rainfed farming, and challenging producers’ capacity to maintain production and profitability. With agricultural water demand in the region exceeding limited supplies and fewer opportunities to develop new water sources, rainfed agriculture is under increasing pressure to meet the nation’s growing food demands. This study examines three major western U.S.A. rainfed crops: barley, spring wheat, and winter wheat. We analyzed the relationship between crop repurposing (the ratio of acres harvested for grain to the total planted acres) to seasonal climatic water deficit (CWD). To isolate the climate signal from economic factors, our analysis accounted for the influence of crop prices on grain harvest. We used historical climate and agricultural data between 1958 and 2020 to model crop repurposing (e.g. forage) across the observed CWD record using a fixed effect model. Our methodology is applicable for any region and incorporates regional differences in farming and economic drivers. Our results indicate that farmers are less likely to harvest barley and spring wheat for grain when the spring CWD is above average. Of the major winter wheat growing regions, only the Northern High Plains in Texas showed a trend of decreasing grain harvest during high CWD. For the majority of major crop growing regions, grain prices increased with lower levels of grain harvest. Interestingly, winter wheat repurposing is significantly higher in the southern Great Plains (∼50% harvested for grain) compared to the rest of the West (∼90%). Our results highlight that the major barley and spring wheat regions’ grain harvests are vulnerable to high spring CWD and low summer CWD, while winter wheat grain harvest is unaffected by variable CWD in most of the West.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Quantitative estimations of ecohydrological water partitioning into evaporation and transpiration remains mostly based on plot‐scale investigations that use well‐instrumented, small‐scale experimental catchments in temperate regions. Here, we attempted to upscale and adapt the conceptual tracer‐aided ecohydrology model STARRtropics to simulate water partitioning, tracer, and storage dynamics over daily time steps and a 1‐km grid larger‐scale (2565 km2) in a sparsely instrumented tropical catchment in Costa Rica. The model was driven by bias‐corrected regional climate model outputs and was simultaneously calibrated against daily discharge observations from 2 to 30 years at four discharge gauging stations and a 1‐year, monthly streamwater isotope record of 46 streams. The overall model performance for the best discharge simulations ranged in KGE values from 0.4 to 0.6 and correlation coefficients for streamflow isotopes from 0.3 to 0.45. More importantly, independent model‐derived transpiration estimates, point‐scale residence time estimates, and measured groundwater isotopes showed reasonable model performance and simulated spatial and temporal patterns pointing towards an overall model realism at the catchment scale over reduced performance in the headwaters. The simulated catchment system was dominated by low‐seasonality and high precipitation inputs and a marked topographical gradient. Climatic drivers overrode smaller, landcover‐dependent transpiration fluxes giving a seemingly homogeneous rainfall‐runoff dominance likely related to model input bias of rainfall isotopes, oversimplistic Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) estimates and averaged Leaf Area Index (LAI). Topographic influences resulted in more dynamic water and tracer fluxes in the headwaters that averaged further downstream at aggregated catchment scales. Modelled headwaters showed greater storage capacity by nearly an order of magnitude compared to the lowlands, which also favoured slightly longer residence times (>250 days) compared to superficially well‐connected groundwater contributing to shorter streamflow residence times (<150 days) in the lowlands. Our findings confirm that tracer‐aided ecohydrological modelling, even in the data‐scarce Tropics, can help gain a first, but crucial approximation of spatio‐temporal dynamics of how water is partitioned, stored and transported beyond the experimental catchment scale of only a few km2.

     
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  3. Abstract

    The Western United States (U.S.) relies heavily on scarce water resources for both ecological services and irrigation. However, the response of irrigation water use during drought is not well documented. Irrigation decision‐making is complex and influenced by human and environmental factors such as water deliveries, crop yields, equipment, labor, crop prices, and climate variability. While few irrigation districts have plans to curtail water deliveries during droughts, water rights, fallowing patterns, crop rotations, and profit expectations also influence irrigation management at the farm scale. This study uses high‐resolution satellite data to examine the response of irrigators to drought by using a novel measure of irrigation management, the Standardized Irrigation Management Index. We assess the state of drought at the field and basin scales in terms of climate and streamflow and analyze the importance of variations in crop price and drought status on decision‐making and water use. We show significant variability in field‐scale response to drought and that crop type, irrigation type, and federal management explain regional and field‐scale differences. The relative influence of climate and prices on crop transitions indicate prices more strongly drive crop planting decisions. The study provides insights into irrigation management during drought, which is crucial for sustainable water supply in the face of the ongoing water supply crisis in the U.S. Southwest.

     
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  5. Large-scale continuous crop monitoring systems (CMS) are key to detect and manage agricultural production anomalies. Current CMS exploit meteorological and crop growth models, and satellite imagery, but have underutilized legacy sources of information such as operational crop expert surveys with long and uninterrupted records. We argue that crop expert assessments, despite their subjective and categorical nature, capture the complexities of assessing the “status” of a crop better than any model or remote sensing retrieval. This is because crop rating data naturally encapsulates the broad expert knowledge of many individual surveyors spread throughout the country, constituting a sophisticated network of “people as sensors” that provide consistent and accurate information on crop progress. We analyze data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Crop Progress and Condition (CPC) survey between 1987 and 2019 for four major crops across the US, and show how to transform the original qualitative data into a continuous, probabilistic variable better suited to quantitative analysis. Although the CPC reflects the subjective perception of many surveyors at different locations, the underlying models that describe the reported crop status are statistically robust and maintain similar characteristics across different crops, exhibit long-term stability, and have nation-wide validity. We discuss the origin and interpretation of existing spatial and temporal biases in the survey data. Finally, we propose a quantitative Crop Condition Index based on the CPC survey and demonstrate how this index can be used to monitor crop status and provide earlier and more precise predictions of crop yields than official USDA forecasts released midseason. 
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    Abstract. The acceleration of urbanization requires sustainable, adaptive management strategies for land and water use in cities. Although the effects of buildings and sealed surfaces on urban runoff generation and local climate are well known, much less is known about the role of water partitioning in urban green spaces. In particular, little is quantitatively known about how different vegetation types of urban green spaces (lawns, parks, woodland, etc.) regulate partitioning of precipitation into evaporation, transpiration and groundwater recharge and how this partitioning is affected by sealed surfaces. Here, we integrated field observations with advanced, isotope-based ecohydrological modelling at a plot-scale site in Berlin, Germany. Soil moisture and sap flow, together with stable isotopes in precipitation, soil water and groundwater recharge, were measured over the course of one growing season under three generic types of urban green space: trees, shrub and grass. Additionally, an eddy flux tower at the site continuously collected hydroclimate data. These data have been used as input and for calibration of the process-based ecohydrological model EcH2O-iso. The model tracks stable isotope ratios and water ages in various stores (e.g. soils and groundwater) and fluxes (evaporation, transpiration and recharge). Green water fluxes in evapotranspiration increased in the order shrub (381±1mm) more » « less
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  9. High frequency and spatially explicit irrigated land maps are important for understanding the patterns and impacts of consumptive water use by agriculture. We built annual, 30 m resolution irrigation maps using Google Earth Engine for the years 1986–2018 for 11 western states within the conterminous U.S. Our map classifies lands into four classes: irrigated agriculture, dryland agriculture, uncultivated land, and wetlands. We built an extensive geospatial database of land cover from each class, including over 50,000 human-verified irrigated fields, 38,000 dryland fields, and over 500,000 km 2 of uncultivated lands. We used 60,000 point samples from 28 years to extract Landsat satellite imagery, as well as climate, meteorology, and terrain data to train a Random Forest classifier. Using a spatially independent validation dataset of 40,000 points, we found our classifier has an overall binary classification (irrigated vs. unirrigated) accuracy of 97.8%, and a four-class overall accuracy of 90.8%. We compared our results to Census of Agriculture irrigation estimates over the seven years of available data and found good overall agreement between the 2832 county-level estimates (r 2 = 0.90), and high agreement when estimates are aggregated to the state level (r 2 = 0.94). We analyzed trends over the 33-year study period, finding an increase of 15% (15,000 km 2 ) in irrigated area in our study region. We found notable decreases in irrigated area in developing urban areas and in the southern Central Valley of California and increases in the plains of eastern Colorado, the Columbia River Basin, the Snake River Plain, and northern California. 
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