Is there a climatological signature to deep root functioning?

Friday, 19 December 2014
Aparna Bamzai, University of Oklahoma Norman Campus, South Central Climate Science Center, Norman, OK, United States and Kirsten de Beurs, University of Oklahoma, Geography and Environmental Sustainability, Norman, OK, United States
Vegetation has the ability to influence local water, carbon and energy fluxes in complex ways. In many climate models, dynamic vegetation is closely linked to soil moisture since 95% of all roots are located in the upper 2m of soil. However, in some ecosystems this bottom 5% of roots contributes an important percentage of net transpiration through the processes of hydraulic lift and redistribution.

Hydraulic lift and redistribution is the movement of water by vegetation through the use of a passive water potential gradient. During periods where water is readily available, vegetation is able to store excess water in deeper soils. When conditions become more arid, the vegetation is able to bring this water back up to the near surface in order to re-hydrate the soil. This water is then used in transpiration and also aids in soil decomposition and nutrient breakdown in the upper soil layers.

While hydraulic lift and redistribution has been identified in individual plant species, there has been limited work to understand the contribution of deep root functioning on broader spatial scales. Here we propose to use satellite data products in conjunction with ground-based observations in order to better determine the atmospheric link to deep moisture across land cover types within the state of Oklahoma. For this preliminary assessment, we will utilize the 8-day MOD 16 evapotranspiration product along with soil moisture observations from the Oklahoma Mesonet to compare and contrast a paired dry and wet case study period. We hypothesize that the presence of deep root functioning in certain land cover types increases resiliency to drought and will be observable between the case studies as reduced suppression of evapotranspiration and enhanced latent cooling of the surface.