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1.  The water balance of grassland ecosystems in the Austrian Alps 
The altitudinal variation of precipitation, evapotranspiration and runoff was quantified at 16 different grassland sites between 580 and 2550 m a.s.l. in the Austrian Alps. Along this altitudinal transect annual evapotranspiration decreased from roughly 690 mm at low elevation sites to 210 – 220 mm at the upper limit of the alpine grassland belt. A detailed analysis of the data showed that the observed reduction in the annual sum of evapotranspiration could be mainly explained by the altitudinal decline of the length of the snow free period (i.e. the vegetation period). Daily mean sums of evapotranspiration showed no altitudinal trend and averaged 2.2 mm d−1 independent of elevation, although the leaf area index, growing season mean air temperature, and vapour pressure deficit declined with increasing altitude. As precipitation increased with elevation, evapotranspiration seems to be of secondary importance when compared to runoff. Inter-annual variability of evapotranspiration was fairly low across contrasting dry and wet years (coefficient of variation = 7 %), indicating that even during dry years water availability was not limiting evapotranspiration.
PMCID: PMC3858980  PMID: 24348098

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