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Keywords:

  • Climate vegetation interaction;
  • soil moisture dynamics;
  • evapotranspiration

[1] We study the interaction between atmosphere, soil moisture, and vegetation in water-limited environments with significant water recycling, and introduce a simple process model including some of the main feedbacks active in the system. In our model, the soil-vegetation-atmosphere dynamics display two stable states for realistic values of the synoptic moisture convergence flux. Starting from low soil moisture and/or low vegetation cover, the system reaches a dry and hot state, whereas it reaches a wet and cool state when starting from higher initial values of soil moisture and of vegetation cover. The role of synoptic perturbations is investigated by inserting a stochastic input of moisture: in this case, a bimodal distribution of soil moisture is obtained. We explore the difference between the dynamics of natural vegetation, capable of adjusting its areal extent to variations in soil moisture, and cultivated vegetation, whose areal extent cannot vary. The model results indicate that the presence of natural vegetation increases the probability of reaching a wet/cool state with respect to the case of cultivated plants.