Inside the flux footprint: The role of organized land cover heterogeneity on the dynamics of observed land-atmosphere exchange fluxes

Leila C. Hernandez Rodriguez, Allison E. Goodwell, Praveen Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Eddy covariance measurements quantify the magnitude and temporal variability of land-atmosphere exchanges of water, heat, and carbon dioxide (CO2) among others. However, they also carry information regarding the influence of spatial heterogeneity within the flux footprint, the temporally dynamic source/sink area that contributes to the measured fluxes. A 25 m tall eddy covariance flux tower in Central Illinois, USA, a region where drastic seasonal land cover changes from intensive agriculture of maize and soybean occur, provides a unique setting to explore how the organized heterogeneity of row crop agriculture contributes to observations of land-atmosphere exchange. We characterize the effects of this heterogeneity on latent heat (LE), sensible heat (H), and CO2 fluxes (Fc) using a combined flux footprint and eco-hydrological modeling approach. We estimate the relative contribution of each crop type resulting from the structured spatial organization of the land cover to the observed fluxes from April 2016 to April 2019. We present the concept of a fetch rose, which represents the frequency of the location and length of the prevalent upwind distance contributing to the observations. The combined action of hydroclimatological drivers and land cover heterogeneity within the dynamic flux footprint explain interannual flux variations. We find that smaller flux footprints associated with unstable conditions are more likely to be dominated by a single crop type, but both crops typically influence any given flux measurement. Meanwhile, our ecohydrological modeling suggests that land cover heterogeneity leads to a greater than 10% difference in flux magnitudes for most time windows relative to an assumption of equally distributed crop types. This study shows how the observed flux magnitudes and variability depend on the organized land cover heterogeneity and is extensible to other intensively managed or otherwise heterogeneous landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1033973
JournalFrontiers in Water
StatePublished - 2023


  • critical zone science
  • ecohydrological modeling
  • eddy covariance
  • fetch rose
  • flux footprint
  • flux partitioning
  • intensively managed landscapes
  • land cover heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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