, Volume 79, Issue 1, pp 1–5 | Cite as

Hydraulic lift: water efflux from upper roots improves effectiveness of water uptake by deep roots

  • M. M. Caldwell
  • J. H. Richards
Original Papers


Deuterated water absorbed by deep roots of Artemisia tridentata appeared in the stem water of neighboring Agropyron desertorum tussocks. This supports the hypothesis that water absorbed by deep roots in moist soil moves through the roots, is released in the upper soil profile at night, and is stored there until it is resorbed by roots the following day. This phenomenon is termed hydraulic lift. The potential for parasitism of the water stored in the upper soil layers by neighboring plant roots is also shown. The effectiveness of water absorption by deep roots was substantially improved with hydraulic lift as indicated by reductions of 25 to 50% in transpiration on days following experimental circumvention of hydraulic lift. This phenomenon has important implications for plant water relations, mineral nutrient uptake, competitive interactions among neighboring plants and aridland hydrology.

Key words

Roots Aridland plants Transpiration Plant water relations Artemisia 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baker JM, van Bavel CHM (1986) Resistance of plant roots to water loss. Agron J 78:641–644Google Scholar
  2. Bavel CHM van, Baker JM (1985) Water transfer by plant roots from wet to dry soil. Naturwissenschaften 72:606Google Scholar
  3. Caldwell MM, Richards JH (1986) Competing root systems: morphology and models of absorption. In: Givnish TJ (ed) On the economy of plant form and function. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 251–273Google Scholar
  4. Caldwell MM, Richards JH, Johnson DA, Nowak RS, Dzurec RS (1981) Coping with herbivory: Photosynthetic capacity and resource allocation in two semiarid Agropyron bunchgrasses. Oecologia 50:14–24Google Scholar
  5. Caldwell MM, Dean TJ, Nowak RS, Dzurec RS, Richards JH (1983) Bunchgrass architecture, light interception, and water use efficiency: assessment by fiber optic point quadrats. Oecologia 59:178–184Google Scholar
  6. Caldwell MM, Eissenstat DM, Richards JH, Allen MF (1985) Competition for phosphorus: Differential uptake from dual-isotope-labeled soil interspaces between shrub and grass. Science 229:384–386Google Scholar
  7. Caldwell MM, Richards JH, Manwaring JH, Eissenstat DM (1987) Rapid shifts in phosphate acquisition show direct competition between neighbouring plants. Nature 327:615–616Google Scholar
  8. Chiariello N, Hickman JC, Mooney HA (1982) Endomycorrhizal role for interspecific transfer of phosphorus in a community of annual plants. Science 217:941–943Google Scholar
  9. Coleman ML, Shepherd TJ, Durham JJ, Rouse JE, Moore GR (1982) Reduction of water with zinc for hydrogen isotope analysis. Anal Chem 54:993–995Google Scholar
  10. Corak SJ, Blevins DG, Pallardy SG (1987) Water transfer in an alfalfa/maize association. Plant Physiol 84:582–586Google Scholar
  11. Mooney HA, Gulmon SL, Rundel PW, Ehleringer J (1980) Further observations on the water relations of Prosopis tamarugo of the northern Atacama desert. Oecologia 44:177–180Google Scholar
  12. Passioura JB (1988) Water transport in and to roots. Ann Rev Plant Physiol Mol Biol 39:245–265Google Scholar
  13. Richards JH (1986) Root form and depth distribution in several biomes. In: Carlisle D, Berry WL, Kaplan IR, Watterson JR (ed) Mineral exploration: Biological systems and organic matter. Rubey vol. V. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, p 83–97Google Scholar
  14. Richards JH, Caldwell MM (1987) Hydraulic lift: Substantial nocturnal water transport between soil layers by Artemisia tridentata roots. Oecologia 73:486–489Google Scholar
  15. Ziegler H, Osmond CB, Stichler W, Trimborn P (1976) Hydrogen isotope discrimination in higher plants: Correlations with photosynthetic pathway and environment. Planta 128:85–92Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. M. Caldwell
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. H. Richards
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Range ScienceUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Ecology CenterUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

Personalised recommendations