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Identifying the optimal spatially and temporally invariant root distribution for a semiarid environment

Authors

  • Gajan Sivandran,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, Ohio State University,Columbus, Ohio,USA
      Corresponding author: G. Sivandran, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, Ohio State University, 470 Hitchcock Hall, 2070 Neil Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA. (sivandran.1@osu.edu)
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  • Rafael L. Bras

    1. School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology,Atlanta, Georgia,USA
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Corresponding author: G. Sivandran, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, Ohio State University, 470 Hitchcock Hall, 2070 Neil Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA. (sivandran.1@osu.edu)

Abstract

[1] In semiarid regions, the rooting strategies employed by vegetation can be critical to its survival. Arid regions are characterized by high variability in the arrival of rainfall, and species found in these areas have adapted mechanisms to ensure the capture of this scarce resource. Vegetation roots have strong control over this partitioning, and assuming a static root profile, predetermine the manner in which this partitioning is undertaken.A coupled, dynamic vegetation and hydrologic model, tRIBS + VEGGIE, was used to explore the role of vertical root distribution on hydrologic fluxes. Point-scale simulations were carried out using two spatially and temporally invariant rooting schemes: uniform: a one-parameter model and logistic: a two-parameter model. The simulations were forced with a stochastic climate generator calibrated to weather stations and rain gauges in the semiarid Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (WGEW) in Arizona. A series of simulations were undertaken exploring the parameter space of both rooting schemes and the optimal root distribution for the simulation, which was defined as the root distribution with the maximum mean transpiration over a 100-yr period, and this was identified. This optimal root profile was determined for five generic soil textures and two plant-functional types (PFTs) to illustrate the role of soil texture on the partitioning of moisture at the land surface. The simulation results illustrate the strong control soil texture has on the partitioning of rainfall and consequently the depth of the optimal rooting profile. High-conductivity soils resulted in the deepest optimal rooting profile with land surface moisture fluxes dominated by transpiration. As we move toward the lower conductivity end of the soil spectrum, a shallowing of the optimal rooting profile is observed and evaporation gradually becomes the dominate flux from the land surface. This study offers a methodology through which local plant, soil, and climate can be accounted for in the parameterization of rooting profiles in semiarid regions.

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