Skip to main content
SLU:s publikationsdatabas (SLUpub)
Forskningsartikel - Refereegranskat, 2023

Optimal plant water use strategies explain soil moisture variability

Bassiouni, Maoya; Manzoni, Stefano; Vico, Giulia


Plant responses to water stress influence water and carbon cycles and can lead to feedbacks on climate yet characterizing these responses at ecosystem levels remains uncertain. Quantifying ecosystem-level water use strategies is complex due to challenges of upscaling plant traits and disentangling confounding environmental factors, ultimately limiting our ability to understand and anticipate global change in ecosystem dynamics and ecohydrological fluxes. We reduce the dimensionality of this problem and quantify plant water use strategies by combining plant traits with soil and climate variables into parameter groups that synthesize key eco-physiological tradeoffs. Using a parsimonious soil water balance framework, we explore variations in plant water uptake capacity, water stress responses, and water use performance via these non-dimensional parameter groups. The group characterizing the synchronization of plant water transport and atmospheric water demand emerges as the primary axis of variation in water use strategies and interacts with the group representing plant hydraulic risk tolerance, especially in arid conditions when plant water transport is limiting. Next, we show that specific plant water use strategies maximize plant water uptake (leading to carbon gain benefits) weighted by risks of water stress (leading to higher costs of water use). A model-data comparison demonstrates that these ecohydrologically optimal parameter groups capture observed soil moisture variability in 40 ecosystems and beyond aridity, rainfall frequency is an important environmental control for plant water use strategies. The emerging parsimonious link between ecohydrological performance and non-dimensional parameters provides a tractable representation of plant water use strategies, relevant to parameterize global models while accounting for ecological and evolutionary constraints on the water cycle.


Buckingham Pi; Eco-evolutionary optimality; Ecohydrology; Evapotranspiration; Hydraulic risk; Plant functional traits; Plant water stress; Soil water balance

Publicerad i

Advances in Water Resources
2023, Volym: 173, artikelnummer: 104405