Plants in water-controlled ecosystems: active role in hydrologic processes and response to water stress III. Vegetation water stress
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The reduction of soil moisture content during droughts lowers the plant water potential and decreases transpiration; this in turn causes a reduction of cell turgor and relative water content which brings about a sequence of damages of increasing seriousness. A review of the literature on plant physiology and water stress shows that vegetation water stress can be assumed to start at the soil moisture level corresponding to incipient stomatal closure and reach a maximum intensity at the wilting point. The mean crossing properties of these soil moisture levels crucial for water stress are derived analytically for the stochastic model of soil moisture dynamics described in Part II (F. Laio, A. Porporato, L. Ridolfi, I. Rodriguez-Iturbe. Adv. Water Res. 24 (7) (2001) 707-723). These properties are then used to propose a measure of vegetation water stress which combines the mean intensity, duration, and frequency of periods of soil water deficit. The characteristics of vegetation water stress are then studied under different climatic conditions, showing how the interplay between plant, soil, and environment can lead to optimal conditions for vegetation. 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.