, Volume 108, Issue 2, pp 273–278 | Cite as

Hydraulic lift and its influence on the water content of the rhizosphere: an example from sugar maple, Acer saccharum

  • Steven H. EmermanEmail author
  • Todd E. Dawson


Hydraulic lift, the transport of water from deep in the soil through plant root systems into the drier upper soil layers, has been demonstrated in several woody plant species. Here the volume of water involved in hydraulic lift by a mature sugar maple tree is estimated. Twenty-four intact soil cores were collected from the vicinity of a sugar maple tree at the same positions at which thermocouple psychrometers had been placed. Desorption measurements were made on the soil cores and the data were fitted to the Campbell relation for soil matric potential ψ versus soil water content θ. The psychrometer data were filtered to obtain the diurnal component contributed by hydraulic lift. The diurnal component in ψ was combined with the Campbell relation for each soil core to obtain the increase in soil water content Δθ due to hydraulic lift. The additional water contents Δθ were numerically integrated to obtain a volume of 102±54 1 of water which was hydraulically lifted each night. The volume of hydraulically lifted water (HLW) is sufficiently great that in ecosystems where hydraulic lift occurs it should be included in models for calculating the water balance. However, a previous analysis of the stable hydrogen isotope composition (δD) of water in understory plants around trees conducting hydraulic lift implies a much greater volume of HLW than that calculated from the analysis performed above. To reconcile these differences, it is hypothesized that some understory plants preferentially extract HLW due to its higher matric potential and that the proportion of this water source within the xylem sap of at least some understory plants that use HLW was so great that the roots of these plants must therefore be in close proximity to the tree roots from which the HLW comes. The results of this study have implications for studies of plant competition where positive associations may exist as well as for ion uptake, nutrient cycling and the design of agroforestry systems.

Key words

Hydraulic lift Roots Soil water content Sugar maple Stable hydrogen isotope composition 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Ecology and SystematicsCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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