Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Transactions of the ASABE Vol. 53(4): 1097-1115


Copyright © 2010 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers


Surface energy and water vapor fluxes play a critical role in understanding the response of agro‐ecosystems to changes in environmental and atmospheric parameters. These fluxes play a crucial role in exploring the dynamics of water and energy use efficiencies of these systems. Quantification of the fluxes is also necessary for assessing the impact of land use and management changes on water balances. Accomplishing these goals requires measurement of water vapor and energy exchanges between various vegetation surfaces and microclimates for long‐enough periods to understand the behavior and dynamics involved with the flux transfer so that robust models can be developed to predict these processes under different scenarios. Networks of flux towers such as AMERIFLUX, FLUXNET, FLUXNET‐CANADA, EUROFLUX, ASIAFLUX, and CAR‐BOEUROPE have been collecting data on exchange processes between biosphere and atmosphere for multiple years across the globe to better understand the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and their role in regional and/or continental and global carbon, water, and energy cycles, providing a unique service to the scientific community. Nonetheless, there is an imperative need for these kinds of networks to increase in number and intensity due to the great diversity among ecosystems and agro‐ecosystems in species composition, physiological properties, physical structure, microclimatic and climatic conditions, and management practices. The Nebraska Water and Energy Flux Measurement, Modeling, and Research Network (NEBFLUX) is a comprehensive network that is designed to measure surface energy and water vapor fluxes, microclimatic variables, plant physiological parameters, soil water content, surface characteristics, and their interactions for various vegetation surfaces. The NEBFLUX is a network of micrometeorological tower sites that uses mainly Bowen ratio energy balance systems (BREBS) to measure surface water vapor and energy fluxes between terrestrial agro‐ecosystems and microclimate. At present, ten BREBSs and one eddy covariance system are operating on a long‐term and continuous basis for vegetation surfaces ranging from tilled and untilled irrigated and rainfed croplands, irrigated and rainfed grasslands, alfalfa, to Phragmites (Phragmites australis)‐dominated cottonwood (Populus deltoides var. occidentalis) and willow stand (Willow salix) plant communities. The NEBFLUX project will provide good‐quality flux and other extensive supportive data on plant physiology [leaf area index, stomatal resistance, within‐canopy radiation parameters, productivity (yield and/or biomass), and plant height], soil characteristics, soil water content, and surface characteristics to the micrometeorology, water resources and agricultural engineering, and science community on broad spectrum of agro‐ecosystems. The fundamental premise of the NEBFLUX project is to measure continuous and long‐term (at least ten complete annual cycles for each surface) exchange of water vapor and energy fluxes. In addition to the scientific and research objectives, information dissemination to educate the general public and youth is another important objective and output of the network. This article describes the specific goals and objectives, basic principles, and operational characteristics of the NEBFLUX.