Passive regulation of soil biogeochemical cycling by root water transport

Juan C. Quijano, Praveen Kumar, Darren T. Drewry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Surface and subsurface moisture dynamics are strongly influenced by the ability of vegetation to take up and redistribute soil moisture using hydraulic redistribution (HR). These dynamics in turn affect soil biogeochemical cycling through controls on decomposition and mineralization rates and ion transport. The goal of this study is to explore this coupling between HR and biogeochemistry using a numerical model. We examine decomposition and mineralization of organic matter and analyze whether differences in decomposition rates induced by HR influence the long-term storage of carbon in the soil and the movement of nitrate (NO 3-) and ammonium (NH 4+) in the rhizosphere. These dynamics are studied in a framework that incorporates the interaction between multiple plant species. The net effect of HR on decomposition is controlled by a trade-off between the resultant moisture and temperature states. This trade-off is conditioned by the availability of fine roots near the surface, and it impacts the long-term storage and vertical distribution of carbon in the soil. HR also impacts the transport and uptake of ions from the soil. It reduces the leaching of nitrate considerably, and, therefore facilitates the uptake of nitrate by vegetation roots. Furthermore, the magnitude and patterns of the feedbacks induced by HR are also influenced by the presence of different plant species that coexist. These results suggest that the alteration of soil moisture by plants through associated processes such as HR can have considerable impact on the below-ground biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3729-3746
Number of pages18
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • decomposition
  • hydraulic redistribution
  • nitrogen cycle
  • plant uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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