, Volume 126, Issue 2, pp 158-165

Tree roots: conduits for deep recharge of soil water

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In previous work, we provided evidence from sap flow measurements that when root systems span soil layers of different moisture content, water is redistributed by roots in the direction of the difference in water potential. In addition to the phenomenon termed "hydraulic lift", where water is redistributed from depth to dry topsoil, the process of "hydraulic redistribution" includes downward transfer of water when the surface layers of soils with low permeability become wet after rainfall. In this paper, we support our previous findings with evidence from measurements of soil water and estimate the quantities of water transferred to depth following rain. Amounts of water stored at depth are not likely to be significant for drought avoidance by plants. However, downward transfer of water may be important to plant establishment and the reduction of waterlogging in certain soil types.

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