The ecohydrological role of Soil texture in a water-limited ecosystem
Soil texture is a key variable in the coupled relationship between climate, soil, and vegetation. This coupling and its dependence on soil texture are studied in this paper using analytical descriptions for soil moisture dynamics and the corresponding vegetation water stress. Results confirm the importance of soil texture in partitioning rainfall into the mean values of the water balance loss components, namely, evapotranspiration, leakage, and runoff, and in determining vegetation water stress for the vegetation and climatic regimes of the La Copita Research Area in Texas. Two separate mechanisms by which this sensitivity to soil texture can impact the ecological structure at La Copita are illustrated. First, dynamics similar to the inverse texture effect, whereby the optimal soil texture for a given vegetation type changes with rainfall amount, are demonstrated for the two most common species at this site. Second, it is shown that soil texture plays a major role in the modulation of the impact that interannual rainfall fluctuations have on the fitness and coexistence of trees and grasses.
Fernandez-Illescas, CP; Porporato, A; Laio, F; Rodriguez-Iturbe, I
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