A multi-scale perspective of water pulses in dryland ecosystems: Climatology and ecohydrology of the western USA

Michael E. Loik, David D Breshears, William K. Lauenroth, Jayne Belnap

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

347 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In dryland ecosystems, the timing and magnitude of precipitation pulses drive many key ecological processes, notably soil water availability for plants and soil microbiota. Plant available water has frequently been viewed simply as incoming precipitation, yet processes at larger scales drive precipitation pulses, and the subsequent transformation of precipitation pulses to plant available water are complex. We provide an overview of the factors that influence the spatial and temporal availability of water to plants and soil biota using examples from western USA drylands. Large spatial- and temporal-scale drivers of regional precipitation patterns include the position of the jet streams and frontal boundaries, the North American Monsoon, El Niño Southern Oscillation events, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Topography and orography modify the patterns set up by the larger-scale drivers, resulting in regional patterns (102-106 km2) of precipitation magnitude, timing, and variation. Together, the large-scale and regional drivers impose important pulsed patterns on long-term precipitation trends at landscape scales, in which most site precipitation is received as small events (<5 mm) and with most of the intervals between events being short (<10 days). The drivers also influence the translation of precipitation events into available water via linkages between soil water content and components of the water budget, including interception, infiltration and runoff, soil evaporation, plant water use and hydraulic redistribution, and seepage below the rooting zone. Soil water content varies not only vertically with depth but also horizontally beneath versus between plants and/or soil crusts in ways that are ecologically important to different plant and crust types. We highlight the importance of considering larger-scale drivers, and their effects on regional patterns; small, frequent precipitation events; and spatio-temporal heterogeneity in soil water content in translating from climatology to precipitation pulses to the dryland ecohydrology of water availability for plants and soil biota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-281
Number of pages13
JournalOecologia
Volume141
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

ecohydrology
arid lands
climatology
ecosystems
ecosystem
plant available water
soil water content
water
soil water
soil biota
oscillation
regional pattern
water content
water availability
soil crusts
seepage
water balance
soil crust
Pacific Decadal Oscillation
topography

Keywords

  • Drought duration
  • El Niño Southern Oscillation
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Infiltration depth
  • Pacific Decadal Oscillation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

A multi-scale perspective of water pulses in dryland ecosystems : Climatology and ecohydrology of the western USA. / Loik, Michael E.; Breshears, David D; Lauenroth, William K.; Belnap, Jayne.

In: Oecologia, Vol. 141, No. 2, 10.2004, p. 269-281.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Loik, Michael E. ; Breshears, David D ; Lauenroth, William K. ; Belnap, Jayne. / A multi-scale perspective of water pulses in dryland ecosystems : Climatology and ecohydrology of the western USA. In: Oecologia. 2004 ; Vol. 141, No. 2. pp. 269-281.
@article{906b87753b774f8c92837c2dade476a2,
title = "A multi-scale perspective of water pulses in dryland ecosystems: Climatology and ecohydrology of the western USA",
abstract = "In dryland ecosystems, the timing and magnitude of precipitation pulses drive many key ecological processes, notably soil water availability for plants and soil microbiota. Plant available water has frequently been viewed simply as incoming precipitation, yet processes at larger scales drive precipitation pulses, and the subsequent transformation of precipitation pulses to plant available water are complex. We provide an overview of the factors that influence the spatial and temporal availability of water to plants and soil biota using examples from western USA drylands. Large spatial- and temporal-scale drivers of regional precipitation patterns include the position of the jet streams and frontal boundaries, the North American Monsoon, El Ni{\~n}o Southern Oscillation events, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Topography and orography modify the patterns set up by the larger-scale drivers, resulting in regional patterns (102-106 km2) of precipitation magnitude, timing, and variation. Together, the large-scale and regional drivers impose important pulsed patterns on long-term precipitation trends at landscape scales, in which most site precipitation is received as small events (<5 mm) and with most of the intervals between events being short (<10 days). The drivers also influence the translation of precipitation events into available water via linkages between soil water content and components of the water budget, including interception, infiltration and runoff, soil evaporation, plant water use and hydraulic redistribution, and seepage below the rooting zone. Soil water content varies not only vertically with depth but also horizontally beneath versus between plants and/or soil crusts in ways that are ecologically important to different plant and crust types. We highlight the importance of considering larger-scale drivers, and their effects on regional patterns; small, frequent precipitation events; and spatio-temporal heterogeneity in soil water content in translating from climatology to precipitation pulses to the dryland ecohydrology of water availability for plants and soil biota.",
keywords = "Drought duration, El Ni{\~n}o Southern Oscillation, Evapotranspiration, Infiltration depth, Pacific Decadal Oscillation",
author = "Loik, {Michael E.} and Breshears, {David D} and Lauenroth, {William K.} and Jayne Belnap",
year = "2004",
month = "10",
doi = "10.1007/s00442-004-1570-y",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "141",
pages = "269--281",
journal = "Oecologia",
issn = "0029-8549",
publisher = "Springer Verlag",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - A multi-scale perspective of water pulses in dryland ecosystems

T2 - Climatology and ecohydrology of the western USA

AU - Loik, Michael E.

AU - Breshears, David D

AU - Lauenroth, William K.

AU - Belnap, Jayne

PY - 2004/10

Y1 - 2004/10

N2 - In dryland ecosystems, the timing and magnitude of precipitation pulses drive many key ecological processes, notably soil water availability for plants and soil microbiota. Plant available water has frequently been viewed simply as incoming precipitation, yet processes at larger scales drive precipitation pulses, and the subsequent transformation of precipitation pulses to plant available water are complex. We provide an overview of the factors that influence the spatial and temporal availability of water to plants and soil biota using examples from western USA drylands. Large spatial- and temporal-scale drivers of regional precipitation patterns include the position of the jet streams and frontal boundaries, the North American Monsoon, El Niño Southern Oscillation events, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Topography and orography modify the patterns set up by the larger-scale drivers, resulting in regional patterns (102-106 km2) of precipitation magnitude, timing, and variation. Together, the large-scale and regional drivers impose important pulsed patterns on long-term precipitation trends at landscape scales, in which most site precipitation is received as small events (<5 mm) and with most of the intervals between events being short (<10 days). The drivers also influence the translation of precipitation events into available water via linkages between soil water content and components of the water budget, including interception, infiltration and runoff, soil evaporation, plant water use and hydraulic redistribution, and seepage below the rooting zone. Soil water content varies not only vertically with depth but also horizontally beneath versus between plants and/or soil crusts in ways that are ecologically important to different plant and crust types. We highlight the importance of considering larger-scale drivers, and their effects on regional patterns; small, frequent precipitation events; and spatio-temporal heterogeneity in soil water content in translating from climatology to precipitation pulses to the dryland ecohydrology of water availability for plants and soil biota.

AB - In dryland ecosystems, the timing and magnitude of precipitation pulses drive many key ecological processes, notably soil water availability for plants and soil microbiota. Plant available water has frequently been viewed simply as incoming precipitation, yet processes at larger scales drive precipitation pulses, and the subsequent transformation of precipitation pulses to plant available water are complex. We provide an overview of the factors that influence the spatial and temporal availability of water to plants and soil biota using examples from western USA drylands. Large spatial- and temporal-scale drivers of regional precipitation patterns include the position of the jet streams and frontal boundaries, the North American Monsoon, El Niño Southern Oscillation events, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Topography and orography modify the patterns set up by the larger-scale drivers, resulting in regional patterns (102-106 km2) of precipitation magnitude, timing, and variation. Together, the large-scale and regional drivers impose important pulsed patterns on long-term precipitation trends at landscape scales, in which most site precipitation is received as small events (<5 mm) and with most of the intervals between events being short (<10 days). The drivers also influence the translation of precipitation events into available water via linkages between soil water content and components of the water budget, including interception, infiltration and runoff, soil evaporation, plant water use and hydraulic redistribution, and seepage below the rooting zone. Soil water content varies not only vertically with depth but also horizontally beneath versus between plants and/or soil crusts in ways that are ecologically important to different plant and crust types. We highlight the importance of considering larger-scale drivers, and their effects on regional patterns; small, frequent precipitation events; and spatio-temporal heterogeneity in soil water content in translating from climatology to precipitation pulses to the dryland ecohydrology of water availability for plants and soil biota.

KW - Drought duration

KW - El Niño Southern Oscillation

KW - Evapotranspiration

KW - Infiltration depth

KW - Pacific Decadal Oscillation

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=6044271836&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=6044271836&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1007/s00442-004-1570-y

DO - 10.1007/s00442-004-1570-y

M3 - Article

C2 - 15138879

AN - SCOPUS:6044271836

VL - 141

SP - 269

EP - 281

JO - Oecologia

JF - Oecologia

SN - 0029-8549

IS - 2

ER -