Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Ecohydrology of Water-Controlled Ecosystems: Soil Moisture and Plant Dynamics



Ecohydrology is an emerging and synthetic discipline in the biogeosciences aimed at understanding connections between the ecological dynamics of vegetation and the hydrological cycle, and how vegetation-water interactions influence elemental cycling and energy exchange. An ecohydrology perspective is especially relevant and important for understanding dynamics of arid and semiarid ecosystems and landscapes.

In these water-limited ecosystems, highly variable patterns of precipitation, geomorphology and soils strongly influence vegetation structure, dynamics, and function. These systems are “pulse-driven”; bursts of biological activity commence with discreet inputs of precipitation. These short-lived and highly active periods are separated by periods of extreme water limitation and vegetation stress. The duration and spatiotemporal dynamics of precipitation pulses and plant-available soil moisture are key features in these ecosystems, controlling vegetation composition, nutrient biogeochemistry and energy exchange.