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Increases in the abundance or density of woody plants in historically semiarid and arid grassland ecosystems have important ecological, hydrological, and socioeconomic implications. Using a simplified water-balance model, we propose a framework for conceptualizing how woody plant encroachment is likely to affect components of the water cycle within these ecosystems. We focus in particular on streamflow and the partitioning of evapotranspiration into evaporation and transpiration. On the basis of this framework, we suggest that streamflow and evaporation processes are affected by woody plant encroachment in different ways, depending on the degree and seasonality of aridity and the availability of subsurface water....
The sedimentary record of Lake Gosiute, a lake that existed in southwestern Wyoming during the Eocene, contains evidence for lake level fluctuations thought to be caused by the earth's precession cycle. However, it is not clear how the effects of these orbital variations were transferred through the climate system and into the sedimentary record. We carry out a series of experiments using a general circulation model (GCM), a lake energy balance model and a lake water balance model to better understand the processes by which these orbital variations could have altered lake evaporation, on-lake precipitation and runoff from the lake's catchment. GCM simulations indicate significant differences in surface incident...
The objective of this research was to test the following hypothesis regarding the nature of the soil moisture-rainfall feedback in semiarid regions. There is a dramatic land surface response to precipitation events and the associated rise in soil moisture, but this response is limited in duration. In addition, plant type does not influence the nature of this response. We tested this hypothesis by measuring the surface water and energy balances at three locations across the shrub-ecotone in the Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge. Measurements spanned the entire 2000 monsoon season. Our analysis yielded four major results. First, changes in the evaporative fraction (EF) resulting from wet versus dry soil moisture conditions...
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Soil moisture distribution emerges as a key link between hydrologic and ecologic processes in semiarid grassland and shrubland, as it influences evapotranspiration, respiration, and assimilation. In support, we present three years of data (2002?2004) collected from a semiarid grassland and shrubland within the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge of central New Mexico; the two sites are separated by about 5 km. Instrumentation includes an eddy covariance tower and typical micrometeorological devices at both locations. Additionally, the grassland site features six soil moisture profiles and the shrubland site features four soil moisture profiles, with the maximum depth at 52.5 cm. At both sites, most rain falls during...