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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  16 Oct 2020

16 Oct 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Patterns of plant rehydration and growth following pulses of soil moisture availability

Andrew F. Feldman1, Daniel J. Short Gianotti1, Alexandra G. Konings2, Pierre Gentine3, and Dara Entekhabi1 Andrew F. Feldman et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 15 Vassar St., Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02139, USA
  • 2Department of Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  • 3Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA

Abstract. Plant hydraulic and photosynthetic responses to individual rain pulses are not well understood because pulse experiments are sparse. Understanding individual pulse responses would inform how rainfall intermittency impacts terrestrial biogeochemical cycles, especially in drylands which play a large role in global atmospheric carbon uptake interannual variability. Using satellite-based estimates of predawn plant and soil water content from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite, we quantify the timescales of plant water content increases following rainfall pulses, which we expect bear the signature of whole-plant mechanisms. In wetter regions, we find that plant water content increases rapidly and dries along with soil moisture, which we attribute to predawn soil-plant water potential equilibrium. Global drylands, by contrast, show multi-day plant water content increases after rain pulses. Shorter increases are more common following dry initial soil conditions. These are attributed to slow plant rehydration due to high plant resistances using a plant hydraulic model. Longer multi-day dryland plant water content increases are attributed to pulse-driven growth, following larger rain pulses and wetter initial soil conditions. These dryland responses reflect widespread drought recovery rehydration responses and individual pulse-driven growth responses, which supports isolated field experiments. The response dependence on moisture pulse characteristics also implies ecosystem sensitivity to intra-annual rainfall intensity and frequency, which are expected to shift in a future climate.

Andrew F. Feldman et al.

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Andrew F. Feldman et al.

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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We quantify global plant water uptake durations after rainfall using satellite-based plant water content measurements. In wetter regions, plant water uptake occurs within a day due to rapid coupling between soil and plant water content. Drylands show multi-day plant water uptake after rain pulses, providing widespread evidence for slow rehydration responses and pulse-driven growth responses. Our results suggest that drylands are sensitive to projected shifts in rainfall intensity and frequency.
We quantify global plant water uptake durations after rainfall using satellite-based plant water...