Research student profile: Joseph Henry

Project title

Where is the water going? Scaling forest water budgets to explain spatial and temporal variation in evapotranspiration.

Project overview

My project aims to develop techniques and models to scale water balances up and down from tree to catchment (spatial) and sub-daily to yearly (temporal) scales. This will be used to understand where water is being lost from the catchment area of Corin Reservoir, ACT (‘study area’).

Previously, findings have demonstrated that evapotranspiration is a dominant form of water loss from catchments consisting of eucalypt forest. However, this type of research has focused mostly on Eucalyptus regnans forest in Victoria, and E. marginate forest in Western Australia. There is a need to find out what is going on in terms of evapotranspiration in montane and woodland forest with species and vegetation formations other than those mentioned, such as E. dalrympleana forest and E. pauciflora woodland.

Currently, other researchers in Victoria have found that connectivity between areas of relatively high soil wetness (mainly in drainage lines) results in significantly earlier runoff following precipitation compared to random, unconnected areas, as lateral flow is limited; however, if random areas become connected, runoff is greater because more of the catchment is connected. Therefore the interaction of forest and woodland evapotranspiration with soil moisture could have important implications for runoff.

This work is needed to explain the temporal and spatial distribution of evapotranspiration in relation to soil moisture of montane forest and woodland in south western ACT. Information gleaned can then be used to understand how water is being lost from the study area and therefore enhance strategies for the management of drinking water for residents of the ACT.

To tackle this project my research involves field work in, and the analysis of long term weather and streamflow data from, the study area.

To do this my work involves setting up plots in the study area to measure soil moisture and tension, local weather, and transpiration for a duration of about 2 years. The plots have been designed to indicate the impacts of aspect, elevation, soil, and vegetation on water balances. Data analysis will consist of signal processing, repeated measures, time series, and spatial analysis.

From this I hope to demonstrate that temporal and spatial variation in evapotranspiration can be explained by spatial and temporal variation in soil moisture.

Findings form this work will improve understanding how water is lost from the study area. This will therefore enhance the management of drinking water for residents of the ACT.


I have lived in and around the Southern Tablelands of NSW most of my life and reckon that it is the best area in the world. The landscape is great.

Prior to starting my current research, I completed a BSc(Forestry)(Hons) at The Australian National University (ANU), Canberra. The focus of my final year research was the impact of riparian willows on water quality along the Murrumbidgee River at Bredbo and Angle Crossing.

I have been granted an ARC-linkage APAI scholarship.

I received the Doug Brodie Award for the best all round fourth year forester whilst at the ANU.




More research student profiles