Revisiting the contribution of transpiration to global terrestrial evapotranspiration

Zhongwang Wei*, Kei Yoshimura, Lixin Wang, Diego G. Miralles, Scott Jasechko, Xuhui Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Even though knowing the contributions of transpiration (T), soil and open water evaporation (E), and interception (I) to terrestrial evapotranspiration (ET = T + E + I) is crucial for understanding the hydrological cycle and its connection to ecological processes, the fraction of T is unattainable by traditional measurement techniques over large scales. Previously reported global mean T/(E + T + I) from multiple independent sources, including satellite-based estimations, reanalysis, land surface models, and isotopic measurements, varies substantially from 24% to 90%. Here we develop a new ET partitioning algorithm, which combines global evapotranspiration estimates and relationships between leaf area index (LAI) and T/(E + T) for different vegetation types, to upscale a wide range of published site-scale measurements. We show that transpiration accounts for about 57.2% (with standard deviation ± 6.8%) of global terrestrial ET. Our approach bridges the scale gap between site measurements and global model simulations,and can be simply implemented into current global climate models to improve biological CO2 flux simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2792-2801
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2017


  • ET partitioning algorithm
  • site measurements
  • transpiration


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