, Volume 166, Issue 4, pp 899–911 | Cite as

In situ separation of root hydraulic redistribution of soil water from liquid and vapor transport

  • Jeffrey M. Warren
  • J. Renée Brooks
  • Maria I. Dragila
  • Frederick C. Meinzer
Physiological ecology - original paper


Nocturnal increases in water potential (ψ) and water content (θ) in the upper soil profile are often attributed to root water efflux, a process termed hydraulic redistribution (HR). However, unsaturated liquid or vapor flux of water between soil layers independent of roots also contributes to the daily recovery in θ (Δθ), confounding efforts to determine the actual magnitude of HR. We estimated liquid (J l) and vapor (J v) soil water fluxes and their impacts on quantifying HR in a seasonally dry ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest by applying existing datasets of ψ, θ and temperature (T) to soil water transport equations. As soil drying progressed, unsaturated hydraulic conductivity declined rapidly such that J l was irrelevant (<2E−05 mm h−1 at 0–60 cm depths) to total water flux by early August. Vapor flux was estimated to be the highest in upper soil (0–15 cm), driven by large T fluctuations, and confounded the role of HR, if any, in nocturnal θ dynamics. Within the 15–35 cm layer, J v contributed up to 40% of hourly increases in nocturnal soil moisture. While both HR and net soil water flux between adjacent layers contribute to θ in the 15–65 cm soil layer, HR was the dominant process and accounted for at least 80% of the daily recovery in θ. The absolute magnitude of HR is not easily quantified, yet total diurnal fluctuations in upper soil water content can be quantified and modeled, and remain highly applicable for establishing the magnitude and temporal dynamics of total ecosystem water flux.


Diffusivity Hydraulic lift Ponderosa pine Hydraulic conductivity Vapor flow 



We gratefully thank James Irvine and Bev Law for providing site data, including temperature profiles, and Rob Coulombe, J.C. Domec and David Woodruff for fieldwork. We appreciate comments from Gerald Flerchinger on an earlier version of this manuscript. This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program, by the USDA Forest Service Ecosystem Processes Program and by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725. This manuscript has been subjected to the Environmental Protection Agency’s peer and administrative review, and it has been approved for publication as an EPA document. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Supplementary material

442_2011_1953_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (32 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 32 kb)


  1. Agam (Ninari) N, Berliner PR (2004) Diurnal water content changes in the bare soil of a coastal desert. J Hydrometeorol 5:922–933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baumhardt RL, Lascano RJ, Evett SR (2000) Soil material, temperature, and salinity effects on calibration of multisensor capacitance probes. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64:1940–1946CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bittelli M, Ventura F, Campbell GS, Snyder RL, Gallegati F, Pisa PR (2008) Coupling of heat, water vapor, and liquid water fluxes to compute evaporation in bare soils. J Hydrol 362:191–205Google Scholar
  4. Brooks RH, Corey AT (1964) Hydraulic properties of porous media Hydrology Paper no 3. Civil Engineering Department, Colorado State University, Fort CollinsGoogle Scholar
  5. Brooks JR, Meinzer FC, Coulombe R, Gregg J (2002) Hydraulic redistribution of soil water during summer drought in two contrasting Pacific Northwest coniferous forests. Tree Physiol 22:1107–1117PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Brooks JR, Meinzer FC, Warren JM, Domec JC, Coulombe R (2006) Hydraulic redistribution in a Douglas-fir forest: lessons from system manipulations. Plant Cell Environ 29:138–150PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown RW, Bartos DL (1982) A calibration model for screen-caged Peltier thermocouple psychrometers. USDA For Serv Res Pap INT-293 Ogden, UT, Intermt For and Range Exp StnGoogle Scholar
  8. Bruce RR, Thomas AW, Harper LA, Leonard RA (1977) Diurnal soil water regime in the tilled plow layer of a warm humid climate. Soil Sci Soc Am J 41:455–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buck AL (1981) New equations for computing vapor pressure and enhancement factor. J Appl Meteorol 20:1527–1532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burgess SSO, Pate JS, Adams MA, Dawson TE (2000) Seasonal water acquisition and redistribution in the Australian woody phreatophyte, Banksia prinotes. Ann Bot (London) 85:215–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cahill AT, Parlange MB (1998) On water vapor transport in field soils. Water Resour Res 34:731–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caldwell MM, Richards JH (1989) Hydraulic lift: water efflux from upper roots improves effectiveness of water uptake by deep roots. Oecologia 79:1–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Caldwell MM, Dawson TE, Richards JH (1998) Hydraulic lift: consequences of water efflux from the roots of plants. Oecologia 113:151–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Campbell GS (1974) A simple method for determining unsaturated conductivity from moisture retention data. Soil Sci 117:311–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Campbell GS (1985) Soil physics with basic—transport models for soil—plant systems. Developments in Soil Science, 14. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  16. Campbell GS, Norman JM (1998) Introduction to environmental biophysics. Springer, New York, p 305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cass A, Campbell GS, Jones TL (1984) Enhancement of thermal water vapor diffusion in soil. Soil Sci Soc Am J 48:25–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dawson TE (1993) Hydraulic lift and water use by plants: implications for water balance, performance and plant-plant interactions. Oecologia 95:565–574Google Scholar
  19. Dean TJ, Bell JP, Baty AJB (1987) Soil moisture measurement by an improved capacitance technique, part 1 sensor design and performance. J Hydrol 93:67–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Domec JC, Warren JM, Meinzer FC, Brooks JR, Coulombe R (2004) Native root xylem embolism and stomatal closure in stands of Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine: mitigation by hydraulic redistribution. Oecologia 141:7–16PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Espeleta JF, West JB, Donovan LA (2004) Species-specific patterns of hydraulic lift in co-occurring adult trees and grasses in a sandhill community. Oecologia 138:341–349PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Irvine J, Law BE, Anthoni PM, Meinzer FC (2002) Water limitations to carbon exchange in old-growth and young ponderosa pine stands. Tree Physiol 22:189–196PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Jackson RD (1973) Diurnal changes in soil water content during drying. In: Bruce RR, Flach KW, Taylor HM (eds) Field soil water regime. Soil Science Society of America, Fitchburg, pp 37–55Google Scholar
  24. Kuráž V (1982) Testing of a field dielectric soil moisture meter. Geotech Test J 4:111–116Google Scholar
  25. Law BE, Ryan MG, Anthoni PM (1999) Seasonal and annual respiration of a ponderosa pine ecosystem. Global Change Biol 5:169–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Law BE, Thornton PE, Irvine J, Anthoni PM, van Tuyl S (2001) Carbon storage and fluxes in ponderosa pine forests at different developmental stages. Global Change Biol 7:755–777CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Meinzer FC, Brooks JR, Bucci S, Goldstein G, Scholz FG, Warren JM (2004) Converging patterns of uptake and hydraulic redistribution of soil water in contrasting woody vegetation types. Tree Physiol 24:919–928PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Millikin-Ishikawa C, Bledsoe CS (2000) Seasonal and diurnal patterns of soil water potential in the rhizosphere and blue oaks: evidence for hydraulic lift. Oecologia 125:459–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moldrup P, Olesen T, Schjonning P, Yamaguchi T, Rolston DE (2000) Predicting the gas diffusion coefficient in undisturbed soil from soil water characteristics. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64:94–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Morgan KT, Parsons LR, Wheaton TA, Pitts DJ, Obreza TA (1999) Field calibration of a capacitance water content probe in fine sand soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 63:987–989CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nakayama FS, Jackson RD, Kimball BA, Reginato RJ (1973) Diurnal soil-water evaporation: chloride movement and accumulation near the soil surface. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 37:509–513CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Or D, Wraith JM (2000) Comment on “on water vapor transport in field soils” by Anthony T Cahill and Marc B Parlange. Water Resour Res 36:3103–3105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Paltineanu IC, Starr JL (1997) Real-time soil water dynamics using multisensor capacitance probes: laboratory calibration. Soil Sci Soc Am J 61:1576–1585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Parlange MB, Cahill AT, Nielsen DR, Hopmans JW, Wendroth O (1998) Review of heat and water movement in field soils. Soil Till Res 47:5–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Penman HL (1940) Gas and vapor movements in soil: the diffusion of vapors through porous solids. J Agric Sci (Cambridge) 30:437–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Philip JR (1957) Evaporation, and moisture and heat fields in the soil. J Meteorol 14:354–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Philip JR, de Vries DA (1957) Moisture movement in porous materials under temperature gradients. Trans Am Geophys Union 38:222–232Google Scholar
  38. Querejeta JI, Egerton-Warburton LM, Allen MF (2003) Direct nocturnal water transfer from oaks to their mycorrhizal symbionts during severe soil drying. Oecologia 134:55–64PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Richards JH, Caldwell MM (1987) Hydraulic lift: substantial nocturnal water transport between soil layers by Artemisia tridentata roots. Oecologia 73:486–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rose CW (1968a) Water transport in soil with a daily temperature wave–1 Theory and experiment. Aust J Soil Res 6:31–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rose CW (1968b) Water transport in soil with a daily temperature wave–2 Analysis. Aust J Soil Res 6:45–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Selker JS, Keller CK, McCord JT (1999) Vadose zone processes. Lewis, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  43. Verhoef A, Fernández-Gálvez J, Diaz-Espejo A, Main BE, El-Bishti M (2006) The diurnal course of soil moisture as measured by various dielectric sensors: effects of soil temperature and the implications for evaporation estimates. J Hydrol 321:147–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Warren JM, Meinzer FC, Brooks JR, Domec JC (2005) Vertical stratification of soil water storage and release dynamics in Pacific Northwest coniferous forests. Agric For Meteorol 130:39–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Warren JM, Meinzer FC, Brooks JR, Domec JC, Coulombe R (2007) Hydraulic redistribution of soil water in two old-growth coniferous forests: quantifying patterns and controls. New Phytol 173:753–765PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Warren JM, Brooks JR, Meinzer FC, Eberhart JL (2008) Hydraulic redistribution of water from Pinus ponderosa trees to seedlings: evidence for an ectomycorrhizal pathway. New Phytol 178:382–394PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wraith JM, Or D (1999) Temperature effects on soil bulk dielectric permittivity measured by time domain reflectometery: experimental evidence and hypothesis development. Water Resour Res 35:361–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey M. Warren
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. Renée Brooks
    • 3
  • Maria I. Dragila
    • 4
  • Frederick C. Meinzer
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.PNW Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Western Ecology DivisionUS EPA/NHEERLCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Department of Crop and Soil ScienceOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

Personalised recommendations