Sustainicum Collection

Consus The aim of the project is to establish a regional science-society network for sustainability innovations in Albania and Kosovo in order to strengthen the connection and collaboration of institutions in the field of higher education, research and practice.

Resource facts

  • 5 to 10 students
  • up to 1 semester
  • Internet connection necessary
  • English, German

Resource Description

Energy balance and energy flows in the environment – Microclimates and water balances of various plant populations(Resource ID: 170)

x Please note: module with excess length - more than
7 lecture units required!
This building block demonstrates the influence of two different, homogeneous plant populations/areas of ground cover on the energy and water balance, as well as the microclimate (humidity, temperature, albedo) and the water supply of plant locations. This is demonstrated using a field measuring experiment described below.

At the beginning of the experiment, participants are presented with directions (short instructions, see download) on how to conduct the experiment. These include a description of the basic conditions, which must be accounted for in order to complete the experiment.

The field experiment, which could be carried out, for example, at the BOKU trial site in Groß-Enzersdorf (or at any other location with various homogenous plant populations), should make the influence of plant populations on the microclimate and water supply clear. The experiment can be conducted over a short period (snapshot, difference between plant populations) or over a longer period of time (illustration of changes over time, such as day-night cycles, seasonal differences).

Aha Moment

  • Identifying and understanding the causes (to be explained by the energy and water balance) of the water supply and water-use efficiency, as well as the micro-climate and growth conditions of plant populations.  
  • Understanding and personal estimation of possibilities to optimize micro-climatic conditions and water usage of plant populations.

Conducting the experiment with detailed instructions

Level 1: Theoretical introduction (1 hour)

Level 2: Location selection and measurement set-up (2 hours)

Level 3: Conducting measurements and data collection (Duration: 2 experiments to choose from: < 1day;  > 1day)

Level 4: Analyzing and interpreting the data (>2 hours)

The measurements are conducted with the help of the following available pieces of equipment from the equipment pool:

  • Base weather station (including net radiometer and soil heat flow sensors)
  • Up to 12 mini-stations (micro-climate in plant population: soil and air temperature, air humidity, soil moisture)
  • Communication software to connect to measuring station: (requirement: personal laptop)
  • Thermal imaging camera (optional)
Learning Outcomes
- Understanding micro-climatic phenomena, which are explained by the energy and water balances.
- Understanding the individual components of the energy balance and how these are changed by modifying vegetation-covered surface areas.
- Understanding how the components of the energy balance change the temporal dynamic of the microclimate and the water supply of vegetation-covered surface areas (e.g. demonstrated on agricultural crop populations).
Relevance for Sustainability
This building block touches on the topical subject of water and energy balances in plant populations and their influence on the microclimate and water supply. These factors significantly influence the growth conditions and productivity of plants in substance production (food, biomass, etc.) at the locations. Through various design possibilities of agriculturally used areas (e.g. type and structure of plant populations, hedge, strip edges, etc.) or through technical production measures (such as reduced soil cultivation, mulch sheeting, or improved irrigation methods), water and energy efficiency in agricultural production can be significantly improved and the use of non-renewable energy resources, as well as the over-straining of natural water resources reduced.
Related Teaching Resources
    Teaching Methods
    Preparation Efforts
    Sources and Links

    Häckel, H., 2012: Meteorologie. Verlag Ulmer, Stuttgart; ISBN 978-3-8252-3700-4 (UTB)

    Larcher, W., 1994: Ökophysiologie der Pflanzen: Leben, Leistung und Streßbewältigung der Pflanzen in ihrer Umwelt. Verlag Ulmer, Stuttgart, ISBN 9783825280741.

    Monteith, J. and M. Unsworth, 2008: Principles of environmental physics. Elsevier, ISBN 9780125051033.

    Funded by
    Funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research within the framework of the call "Projekt MINT-Massenfächer" (2011/12)

    Comments Write Comment


    Josef Eitzinger


    Josef Eitzinger
    This teaching resource is allocated to following University:
    BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
    Institute of Meteorology (BOKU Vienna)



    Teaching Tools & Methods

    • Reflection
    • formteaching_experiment