Mediterranean mountainous areas of shallow soil often display a mosaic of tree clumps surrounded by grass. The combined role and dynamics of water extracted from the underlying rock, and the competition between adjacent patches of trees and grass, has not been investigated. We quantified the role rock water plays in the seasonal dynamics of evapotranspiration (ET), over a patchy landscape in the context of current and past seasonal climate changes, and land‐cover change strategies. Soil water budget suggests deep water uptake by roots of trees (0.8 – 0.9 mm/d), penetrating into the fractured basalt, subsidized grass transpiration in spring through hydraulic redistribution. However, in summer trees used all the rock water absorbed (0.79 mm/d). A 15‐year dataset shows that, with increasing seasonal drought‐severity (potential ET/precipitation) to >1.04, the vertical water flux through the bottom of the thin soil layer transitions from drainage to uptake in support of ET. A hypothetical grass‐covered landscape, with no access to deep water, would require 0.68 – 0.85 mm/d more than is available, forcing shortened growing season and/or reduced leaf area. Long‐term decreasing winter precipitation and increasing spring potential ET suggest drying climate, so far with stable vegetation mosaic but progressively earlier peak of grass leaf area. Intervention policies to increase water yield by reducing tree cover will curtail grass access to rock moisture, while attempting to increase tree‐related products (including carbon sequestration) by increasing forest cover will limit water availability per tree leaf area. Both changes may further reduce ecosystem stability.

Rock water as a key resource for patchy ecosystems on shallow soils: digging deep tree clumps subsidize surrounding surficial grass

Montaldo, Nicola
;
Corona, Roberto;Curreli, Matteo;Sirigu, Serena;Piroddi, Luca;
2021

Abstract

Mediterranean mountainous areas of shallow soil often display a mosaic of tree clumps surrounded by grass. The combined role and dynamics of water extracted from the underlying rock, and the competition between adjacent patches of trees and grass, has not been investigated. We quantified the role rock water plays in the seasonal dynamics of evapotranspiration (ET), over a patchy landscape in the context of current and past seasonal climate changes, and land‐cover change strategies. Soil water budget suggests deep water uptake by roots of trees (0.8 – 0.9 mm/d), penetrating into the fractured basalt, subsidized grass transpiration in spring through hydraulic redistribution. However, in summer trees used all the rock water absorbed (0.79 mm/d). A 15‐year dataset shows that, with increasing seasonal drought‐severity (potential ET/precipitation) to >1.04, the vertical water flux through the bottom of the thin soil layer transitions from drainage to uptake in support of ET. A hypothetical grass‐covered landscape, with no access to deep water, would require 0.68 – 0.85 mm/d more than is available, forcing shortened growing season and/or reduced leaf area. Long‐term decreasing winter precipitation and increasing spring potential ET suggest drying climate, so far with stable vegetation mosaic but progressively earlier peak of grass leaf area. Intervention policies to increase water yield by reducing tree cover will curtail grass access to rock moisture, while attempting to increase tree‐related products (including carbon sequestration) by increasing forest cover will limit water availability per tree leaf area. Both changes may further reduce ecosystem stability.
evapotranspiration; hydraulic lift; hydraulic redistribution; land cover change; precipitation trend; root sap‐flux; tree‐grass mosaic; tree transpiration
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11584/303725
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