Global vegetation models are used to estimate water and carbon fluxes in current and future climates. To accurately estimate these fluxes, it is crucial to incorporate tree processes, such as transpiration. Some models accurately predict fluxes in well-watered conditions; however, our ability to predict responses of trees when water availability is limited remains restricted. Including mechanistic responses of trees during drought in models will improve estimates of water and carbon fluxes.
Estimating water fluxes over large spatial scales may be calculated by combining (1) remotely sensed estimates of evapotranspiration with (2) knowledge of whether tree water use for a particular forest type or plant functional type follows universal scaling rules. There is little knowledge of whether universal scaling rules apply to water-limited ecosystems.
This review examines ‘convergence’ in relationships among tree water use, leaf area, and tree size, using Australian broad-leaved evergreen vegetation as a case study. Broad-leaved evergreen is a plant functional type commonly used in global vegetation models. If convergence is observed among leaf area and water use relationships for different species within this plant functional type, this would provide a powerful tool for scaling ecohydrological processes. This work tests the hypothesis that tree water use (Q) converges along a common relationship with leaf area for a continent-wide range of species (n = 21), spanning a 100-fold difference in size across broad-leaved evergreens, including Acacia, Corymbia, and Eucalyptus as well as Callitris.
Remarkably, the slope of the relationship between tree water use and leaf area was similar for the broad-leaved evergreen genus, Eucalyptus, despite different slopes in relationships among diameter at breast height, leaf area, sapwood area, and Q. Realistic modelling of water and carbon fluxes requires an understanding of physiological mechanisms influencing Q, for each plant functional type, and for these mechanisms to be incorporated into vegetation models. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.