Water Resources Research

Ecological optimality in water-limited natural soil-vegetation systems: 2. Tests and applications


  • Peter S. Eagleson,

  • Tobin E. Tellers


The long-term optimal climatic climax soil-vegetation system is defined for several climates according to previous hypotheses in terms of two free parameters, effective porosity and plant water use coefficient. The free parameters are chosen by matching the predicted and observed average annual water yield. The resulting climax soil and vegetation properties are tested by comparison with independent observations of canopy density and average annual surface runoff. The climax properties are shown also to satisfy a previous hypothesis for short-term optimization of canopy density and water use coefficient. Using these hypotheses, a relationship between average evapotranspiration and optimum vegetation canopy density is derived and is compared with additional field observations. An algorithm is suggested by which the climax soil and vegetation properties can be calculated given only the climate parameters and the soil effective porosity. Sensitivity of the climax properties to the effective porosity is explored.