Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Water uptake and redistribution during drought in a semiarid shrub species

Iván Prieto A C D , Francisco I. Pugnaire A and Ronald J. Ryel B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Carretera de Sacramento s/n, E-04120 La Cañada de San Urbano, Almería, Spain.

B Utah State University, Department of Wildland Resources, 5230 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322, USA.

C Present address: 1919 Route de Mende, E34270, Montpellier Cedex 5, France.

D Corresponding author. Email: ivan.prieto@cefe.cnrs.fr

Functional Plant Biology 41(8) 812-819 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP13300
Submitted: 16 October 2013  Accepted: 11 February 2014   Published: 27 March 2014

Abstract

In arid systems, most plant mortality occurs during long drought periods when water is not available for plant uptake. In these systems, plants often benefit from scarce rain events occurring during drought but some of the mechanisms underlying this water use remain unknown. In this context, plant water use and redistribution after a large rain event could be a mechanism that allows deep-rooted shrubs to conservatively use water during drought. We tested this hypothesis by comparing soil and plant water dynamics in Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana (Rydb.) Beetle shrubs that either received a rain event (20 mm) or received no water. Soil water content (SWC) increased in shallow layers after the event and increased in deep soil layers through hydraulic redistribution (HR). Our results show that Artemisia shrubs effectively redistributed the water pulse downward recharging deep soil water pools that allowed greater plant water use throughout the subsequent drought period, which ameliorated plant water potentials. Shrubs used shallow water pools when available and then gradually shifted to deep-water pools when shallow water was being used up. Both HR recharge and the shift to shallow soil water use helped conserve deep soil water pools. Summer water uptake in Artemisia not only improved plant water relations but also increased deep soil water availability during drought.

Additional keywords: deuterium composition, hydraulic redistribution, soil water pools, water pulse, water recharge.


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