Convergent Hydraulic Redistribution and Groundwater Access Supported Facilitative Dependency Between Trees and Grasses in a Semi-Arid Environment

E. Lee, P. Kumar, J. F. Knowles, R. L. Minor, N. Tran, G. A. Barron-Gafford, R. L. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Hydraulic redistribution is the transport of water from wet to dry soil layers, upward or downward, through plant roots. Often in savanna and woodland ecosystems, deep-rooted trees, and shallow-rooted grasses coexist. The degree to which these different species compete for or share soil-water derived from precipitation or groundwater, as well as how these interactions are altered by hydraulic redistribution, is unknown. We use a multilayer canopy model and field observations to examine how the presence of deep, but tree-root accessible, groundwater impacts seasonal patterns of hydraulic redistribution, and interaction between coexisting vegetation species in a semiarid riparian woodland (US-CMW). Based on the simulation, trees absorb moisture at the water table (∼10 m depth) and release it in the shallow soil depth (0–3 m) during the dry pre-monsoon season. We observed the occurrence of a new convergent hydraulic redistribution pattern during the monsoon season, where moisture is transported from both the near-surface (0–0.5 m) and the water table to intermediate soil layers (1–5 m) through tree roots. We found that hydraulic redistribution demonstrates a growth facilitation effect at this site, supporting 49% of growing season tree transpiration and 14% of the grass transpiration. Compared to a similarly structured upland savanna without accessible groundwater, the riparian site shows an increased amount of hydraulically redistributed water and more facilitative water use between coexisting grasses and trees. These results shed light on the linkage between accessible groundwater and the role of hydraulic redistribution on the interaction between deep-rooted and shallow-rooted vegetation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020WR028103
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume57
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • convergent flow
  • groundwater
  • hydraulic redistribution
  • water use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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