An ecological evaluation of Eagleson's optimality hypotheses
Article first published online: 14 MAY 2004
Volume 18, Issue 3, pages 404–413, June 2004
How to Cite
KERKHOFF, A. J., MARTENS, S. N. and MILNE, B. T. (2004), An ecological evaluation of Eagleson's optimality hypotheses. Functional Ecology, 18: 404–413. doi: 10.1111/j.0269-8463.2004.00844.x
- Issue published online: 14 MAY 2004
- Article first published online: 14 MAY 2004
- Received 15 August 2003; revised 3 December 2003; accepted 8 December 2003
- piñon–juniper woodland;
- semi-arid vegetation;
- water balance;
- Los Piños Mountains
- 1The pioneering work of Peter Eagleson has been proposed as a theoretical basis for ecohydrology. Central to the theory are three ‘ecological optimality hypotheses’ which represent ecologically important aspects of atmosphere–soil–vegetation interactions.
- 2The model and its underlying assumptions have never been evaluated in an explicitly ecological context. We examine each of the three optimality hypotheses in turn and test the ability of the model to make ecologically relevant predictions using climate, soil and vegetation data from a semi-arid woodland site in central New Mexico, USA.
- 3We find that all three of the optimality hypotheses are ecologically flawed. While we could qualitatively reproduce previously published results, model behaviour under novel conditions was highly variable and frequently unrealistic.
- 4The poor performance of the model was probably due to the inadequate treatment of water-limited transpiration in its original derivation. The theory thus requires redevelopment for ecological application, and we suggest several strands of research that could contribute to its improvement.