Get access

Process-based proxy of oxygen stress surpasses indirect ones in predicting vegetation characteristics

Authors

  • Ruud P. Bartholomeus,

    Corresponding author
    1. KWR Watercycle Research Institute, 3430 BB Nieuwegein, The Netherlands
    • VU University, Institute of Ecological Science, Department of Systems Ecology, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jan-Philip M. Witte,

    1. KWR Watercycle Research Institute, 3430 BB Nieuwegein, The Netherlands
    2. VU University, Institute of Ecological Science, Department of Systems Ecology, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Peter M. van Bodegom,

    1. VU University, Institute of Ecological Science, Department of Systems Ecology, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jos C. van Dam,

    1. Wageningen UR, Department of Soil Physics, Ecohydrology and Groundwater Management, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Piet de Becker,

    1. Research Institute for Nature and Forest, 1070 Brussels, Belgium
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Rien Aerts

    1. VU University, Institute of Ecological Science, Department of Systems Ecology, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author

R. P. Bartholomeus, KWR Watercycle Research Institute, PO Box 1072, 3430 BB Nieuwegein, The Netherlands.

E-mail: ruud.bartholomeus@kwrwater.nl

ABSTRACT

Robust relationships among soil, water, atmosphere and plants are needed to reliably forecast the plant species composition. In this paper, we show the need for, and the application of, a process-based relationship between soil moisture conditions and vegetation characteristics. We considered 366 groundwater-dependent sites, where oxygen stress, caused by a surplus of soil moisture, codetermines plant performance. We compared two existing indirect proxies for the soil oxygen status – namely mean spring groundwater level (MSL) and sum exceedence value (SEV) – with our newly developed process-based proxy, viz. root respiration stress (RS). The two indirect proxies and the process-based proxy for oxygen stress performed equally well in describing vegetation characteristics for the Netherlands under the current climate. However, relationships based on MSL and SEV appeared to produce systematic prediction errors when applied outside their calibration range, in contrast to the relationship based on RS. Hence, the two indirect proxies cannot be used in projections, such as in predicting effects of climate change on vegetation composition, all the more because they – unlike RS – do not account for essential parameters that determine oxygen stress (e.g. temperature and extreme rainfall events in the growing season). We advocate using RS for estimating vegetation impacts in climate projections to increase the reliability and effectiveness of adaptive strategies. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary