Measurement of Vapor Flow As an Important Source of Water in Dry Land Eco-Hydrology

Monday, 15 December 2014
Zhi Wang1,2, Zili He3, Youke Wang3, ZhiYong Gao3 and Kassandra Hishida1, (1)California State University Fresno, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Fresno, CA, United States, (2)ChangAn University, Institute for Water and Development, Xian, China, (3)Northwest A & F University, College of Water Resources and Architectural Engineering, Yangling, Shaanxi, China
When the temperature of land surface is lower than that of air and deeper soils, water vapor gathers toward the ground surface where dew maybe formed depending on the prevailing dew point and wind speed. Some plants are able to absorb the dew and vapor flow while the soil can readily absorb both. Certain animals such as desert beetles and ants harvest the dew or fog for daily survival. Recently, it is also realized that the dew and vapor flow can be a life-saving amount of water for plant survival at the driest seasons of the year in arid and semi-arid regions.

Researches are conducted to quantify the amount of near-surface vapor flow in arid and semi-arid regions in China and USA. Quantitative leaf water absorption and desorption functions were derived based on laboratory experiments. Results show that plant leaves absorb and release water at different speeds depending on species and varieties. The “ideal” native plants in the dry climates can quickly absorb water and slowly release it. This water-holding capacity of plant is characterized by the absorption and desorption functions derived for plant physiology and water balance studies.

Field studies are conducted to measure the dynamic vapor flow movements from the atmosphere and the groundwater table to soil surface. Results show that dew is usually formed on soil and plant surfaces during the daily hours when the temperature gradients are inverted toward the soil surface. The amount of dew harvested using gravels on the soil surface was enough to support water melon agriculture on deserts. The vapor flow can be effectively intercepted by artificially seeded plants in semi-arid regions forming new forests. New studies are attempted to quantify the role of vapor flow for the survival of giant sequoias in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.