Using an optimality model to understand medium and long-term responses of vegetation water use to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations

Stanislaus J. Schymanski, Michael L. Roderick, Murugesu Sivapalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Vegetation has different adjustable properties for adaptation to its environment. Examples include stomatal conductance at short time scale (minutes), leaf area index and fine root distributions at longer time scales (days-months) and species composition and dominant growth forms at very long time scales (years- decades-centuries). As a result, the overall response of evapotranspiration to changes in environmental forcing may also change at different time scales. The vegetation optimality model simulates optimal adaptation to environmental conditions, based on the assumption that different vegetation properties are optimized to maximize the long-term net carbon profit, allowing for separation of different scales of adaptation, without the need for parametrization with observed responses. This paper discusses model simulations of vegetation responses to today's elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations (eCO2) at different temporal scales and puts them in context with experimental evidence from free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments. Without any model tuning or calibration, the model reproduced general trends deduced from FACE experiments, but, contrary to the widespread expectation that eCO2 would generally decrease water use due to its leaf-scale effect on stomatal conductance, our results suggest that eCO2 may lead to unchanged or even increased vegetation water use in water-limited climates, accompanied by an increase in perennial vegetation cover.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAoB PLANTS
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Ecohydrology
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Global change
  • Optimality
  • Vegetation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science

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