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Keywords:

  • ecohydrology;
  • groundwater dependent ecosystems;
  • phreatophytes;
  • riparian ecosystems

[1] In many regions around the world, groundwater is the key source of water for some vegetation species, and its availability and dynamics can define vegetation composition and distribution. In recent years the interaction between groundwater and vegetation has seen a renewed attention because of the impact of groundwater extraction on natural ecosystems' health and increasing interest in the restoration of riparian zones and wetlands. The literature provides studies that approach this problem from very different angles. Information on the vegetation species that are likely to depend on groundwater and the physical characteristics of such species can be found in a large body of literature in ecology and plant physiology. Environmental engineers, hydrologists, and geoscientists are more focused on ecosystem restoration and the estimation of a catchment's water balance, for which the groundwater transpired by vegetation might be an important component. Here we join together these different bodies of literature with the aim of providing the state of knowledge on groundwater-dependent vegetation. We describe the physiological features that characterize groundwater-dependent vegetation, review different methods to study vegetation water use in the field, discuss recent advances in the understanding of how groundwater levels might determine vegetation composition, and present a summary of the available mathematical models that include the interaction between groundwater levels and vegetative water use. Several future research directions are identified, such as the quantification and modeling of the partitioning of transpiration between unsaturated and saturated zones and the development of integrated models able to link hydrology, ecology, and geomorphology.