On the importance of including vegetation dynamics in Budyko's hydrological model

R. J. Donohue*, M. L. Roderick, T. R. McVicar

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    405 Citations (Scopus)


    The Budyko curve describes the patterns observed between between climate, evapotranspiration and run-off and has proven to be a useful model for predicting catchment energy and water balances. In this paper we review the Budyko curve's underlying framework and, based on the literature, present an argument for why it is important to include vegetation dynamics into the framework for some purposes. The Budyko framework assumes catchments are at steady-state and are driven by the macro-climate, two conditions dependent on the scales of application, such that the framework's reliability is greatest when applied using long-term averages (≫1 year) and to large catchments (> 10 000 km2). At these scales previous experience has shown that the hydrological role of vegetation does not need to be explicitly considered within the framework. By demonstrating how dynamics in the leaf area, photosynthetic capacity and rooting depth of vegetation affect not only annual and seasonal vegetation water use, but also steady-state conditions, we argue that it is necessary to explicitly include vegetation dynamics into the Budyko framework before it is applied at small scales. Such adaptations would extend the framework not only to applications at small timescales and/or small catchments but to operational activities relating to vegetation and water management.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)983-995
    Number of pages13
    JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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