Modeling vegetation rooting strategies on a hillslope

Sivandran, G.;Bras, R. L.

American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2011, abstract #H51A-1175

The manner in which water and energy is partitioned and redistributed along a hillslope is the result of complex coupled ecohydrological interactions between the climatic, soils, topography and vegetation operating over a wide range of spatiotemporal scales. Distributed process based modeling creates a framework through which the interaction of vegetation with the subtle differences in the spatial and temporal dynamics of soil moisture that arise under localized abiotic conditions along a hillslope can be simulated and examined. One deficiency in the current dynamic vegetation models is the one sided manner in which vegetation responds to soil moisture dynamics. Above ground, vegetation is given the freedom to dynamically evolve through alterations in fractional vegetation cover and/or canopy height and density; however below ground rooting profiles are simplistically represented and often held constant in time and space. The need to better represent the belowground role of vegetation through dynamic rooting strategies is fundamental in capturing the magnitude and timing of water and energy fluxes between the atmosphere and land surface. In order to allow vegetation to adapt to gradients in soil moisture a dynamic rooting scheme was incorporated into tRIBS+VEGGIE (a physically based distributed ecohydrological model). The dynamic rooting scheme allows vegetation the freedom to adapt their rooting depth and distribution in response abiotic conditions in a way that more closely mimics observed plant behavior. The incorporation of this belowground plasticity results in vegetation employing a suite of rooting strategies based on soil texture, climatic conditions and location on the hillslope.