Compensatory Root Water Uptake of Overlapping Root Systems

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Elizabeth Agee, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI, United States
Land-surface models use simplified representations of root water uptake based on biomass distributions and empirical functions that constrain water uptake during unfavorable soil moisture conditions. These models fail to capture the observed hydraulic plasticity that allows plants to regulate root hydraulic conductivity and zones of active uptake based on local gradients. Recent developments in root water uptake modeling have sought to increase its mechanistic representation by bridging the gap between physically based microscopic models and computationally feasible macroscopic approaches. It remains to be demonstrated whether bulk parameterization of microscale characteristics (e.g., root system morphology and root conductivity) can improve process representation at the ecosystem scale. We employ the Couvreur method of microscopic uptake to yield macroscopic representation in a coupled soil-root model. Using a modified version of the PFLOTRAN model, which represents the 3-D physics of variably saturated soil, we model a one-hectare temperate forest stand under natural and synthetic climatic forcing. Our results show that as shallow soil layers dry, uptake at the tree and stand level shift to deeper soil layers, allowing the transpiration stream demanded by the atmosphere. We assess the potential capacity of the model to capture compensatory root water uptake. Further, the hydraulic plasticity of the root system is demonstrated by the quick response of uptake to rainfall pulses. These initial results indicate a promising direction for land surface models in which significant three-dimensional information from large root systems can be feasibly integrated into the forest scale simulations of root water uptake.