A new model, the Surface Energy Balance Algorithm for Rainfed Agriculture (SEBARA), has been developed to estimate the spatial pattern of evapotranspiration in these agrosystems using satellite images (thermal, infrared and visible spectra). The model was calibrated for two competing land uses (Eucalyptus globules tree plantations and pastures) in adjacent catchments in western Victoria, southeastern Australia. Using measurements from a flux tower in the pasture catchment and adjusted sapflow measurements in the plantation catchment, an estimation accuracy of 95% was achieved.
The tree plantations had higher available net radiation, lower soil heat flux and higher latent heat flux, resulting in 15–20% higher evapotranspirative demand than the pasture, depending upon the age and canopy of plantations. The evapotranspiration rate of plantations declines where groundwater depth is >12m or where shallow groundwater is saline. The shallow root system of the pasture means that it relies solely on soil moisture to meet its water requirements and thus has lower evapotranspiration, which varies according to the pasture species.