Plants in water-controlled ecosystems: active role in hydrologic processes and response to water stress IV. Discussion of real cases Academic Article uri icon


  • Three water-controlled ecosystems are studied here using the stochastic description of soil moisture dynamics and vegetation water stress proposed in Part II (F. Laio, A. Porporato, L. Ridolfi, I. Rodriguez-Iturbe, Adv. Water Res. 24 (7) (2001) 707-723) and Part III (A. Porporato, F. Laio, L. Ridolfi, I. Rodriguez-Iturbe, Adv. Water Res. 24 (7) (2001) 725-744) of this series of papers. In the savanna of Nylsvley (South Africa) the very diverse physiological characteristics of the existing plants give rise to different strategies of soil moisture exploitation. Notwithstanding these differences, the vegetation water stress for all the species turns out to be very similar, suggesting that coexistence might be attained also through differentiation of water use. The case of the savanna of Southern Texas points out how rooting depth and interannual rainfall variability can impact soil moisture dynamics and vegetation water stress. Because of the different responses to water stress of trees and grasses, external climatic forcing could be at the origin of the dynamic equilibrium allowing coexistence in this ecosystem. Finally, the analysis of a short grass steppe in Colorado provides an interesting example of the so-called inverse texture effect, whereby preferential conditions for vegetation are dependent on soil texture and rainfall. Sites which are more favorable during wet conditions may become less suitable to the same vegetation type during drier years. Such an effect is important to explain the predominance of existing species, as well as to investigate their reproductive strategies. 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • Advances in Water Resources

author list (cited authors)

  • Laio, F., Porporato, A., Fernandez-Illescas, C. P., & Rodriguez-Iturbe, I.

citation count

  • 168

complete list of authors

  • Laio, F||Porporato, A||Fernandez-Illescas, CP||Rodriguez-Iturbe, I

publication date

  • July 2001