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Oecologia

, Volume 138, Issue 3, pp 341–349 | Cite as

Species-specific patterns of hydraulic lift in co-occurring adult trees and grasses in a sandhill community

  • J. F. Espeleta
  • J. B. West
  • L. A. Donovan
Ecophysiology

Abstract

Plants can significantly affect ecosystem water balance by hydraulic redistribution (HR) from dry to wet soil layers via roots (also called hydraulic lift, HL, when the redistribution is from deep to shallow soil). However, the information on how co-occurring species in natural habitats differ in HL ability is insufficient. In a field study, we compared HL ability of four tree species (including three congeneric oak species) and two C4 bunch grass species that co-occur in subxeric habitats of fall-line sandhills in southeastern USA. Soil water potentials (ψs) were recorded hourly for 3 years both in large chambers that isolated roots for each species and outside the chambers. Outside of root chambers, soil drying occurred periodically in the top 25 cm and corresponded with lack of precipitation during the summer growing season. Soil moisture was continuously available at a 1 m depth. HL activity was observed in three of the tree species, with greater frequency for Pinus palustris than for Quercus laevis and Q. incana. The fourth tree species Q. margaretta did not exhibit HL activity even though it experienced a similar ψs gradient. For the C4 bunch grasses, Aristida stricta exhibited a small amount of HL activity, but Schizachyrium scoparium did not. The capacity for HL activity may be linked to the species ecological distribution. The four species that exhibited HL activity in this subxeric habitat are also dominant in adjacent xeric sandhill habitats, whereas the species that did not exhibit HL are scarcely found in the xeric areas. This is consistent with other studies that found greater fine root survival in dry soil for the four xeric species exhibiting HL activity. The differential ability of these species to redistribute water from the deep soil to the rapidly drying shallow soil likely has a strong effect on the water balance of sandhill plant communities, and is likely linked to their differential distribution across edaphic gradients.

Keywords

Aristida stricta Hydraulic lift Hydraulic redistribution  Pinus palustris  Quercus laevis 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the CSNWR staff for providing housing, meteorological data and help in many aspects of this research. Rob Addington, Jill Johnston and Christina Richards provided crucial help with psychrometer installation, and Jill Johnston, Christina Richards, David Rosenthal, Keirith Snyder and Fulco Ludwig offered valuable comments on the data. This research was funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to L.A.D.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. F. Espeleta
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • J. B. West
    • 1
    • 3
  • L. A. Donovan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant BiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.La Selva Biological StationOrganization for Tropical StudiesPuerto Viejo de SarapiquíCosta Rica
  3. 3.Department of Ecology, Evolution and BehaviorUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  4. 4.Organization for Tropical Studies Interlink 341MiamiUSA

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