Water use patterns of four co-occurring chaparral shrubs


Mixed stands of chaparral in California usually contain several species of shrubs growing close to each other so that aerial branches and subterranean roots overlap. There is some evidence that roots are stratified relative to depth. It may be that root stratification promotes sharing of soil moisture resources. We examined this possibility by comparing seasonal water use patterns in a mixed stand of chaparral dominated by four species of shrubs: Quercus durata, Heteromeles arbutifolia, Adenostoma fasciculatum, and Rhamnus californica. We used a neutron probe and soil phychrometers to follow seasonal depletion and recharging of soil moisture and compared these patterns to seasonal patterns of predawn water potentials, diurnal leaf conductances, and diurnal leaf water potentials. Our results indicated that 1) Quercus was deeply rooted, having high water potentials and high leaf conductances throughout the summer drought period, 2) Heteromeles/Adenostoma were intermediate in rooting depth, water potentials, and leaf conductances, and 3) Rhamnus was shallow rooted, having the lowest water potentials and leaf conductances. During the peak of the drought, predawn water potentials for Quercus corresponded to soil water potentials at or below a depth of 2 m, predawn water potentials of Heteromeles/ Adenostoma corresponded to a depth of 0.75 m, and predawn water potentials of Rhamnus corresponded to a depth of 0.5 m. This study supports the concept that co-occurring shrubs of chaparral in California utilize a different base of soil moisture resources.

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Correspondence to S. D. Davis.

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Davis, S.D., Mooney, H.A. Water use patterns of four co-occurring chaparral shrubs. Oecologia 70, 172–177 (1986).

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Key words

  • Water use
  • Root distribution
  • Water potential predawn
  • Leaf conductance
  • Quercus durata
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia
  • Adenostoma fasciculatum
  • Rhamnus californica