We used the patch arid land simulator (PALS-FT) – a simple, mechanistic ecosystem model – to explore long-term variation in evapotranspiration (ET) as a function of variability in rainfall and plant functional type (FT) at a warm desert site in southern New Mexico. PALS-FT predicts soil evaporation and plant transpiration of a canopy composed of five principal plant FTs: annuals, perennial forbs, C4 grasses, sub-shrubs, and evergreen shrubs. For each FT, the fractional contribution to transpiration depends upon phenological activity and cover as well as daily leaf stomatal conductance, which is a function of plant water potential, calculated from root-weighted soil water potential in six soil layers. Simulations of water loss from two plant community types (grass- vs. shrub-dominated) were carried out for the Jornada Basin, New Mexico, using 100 years of daily precipitation data (1891–1990). In order to emphasize variability associated with rainfall and fundamental differences in FT composition between communities, the seasonal patterns cover of perennials were held constant from year to year. Because the relative amount of year to year cover of winter and summer annual species is highly variable in this ecosystem, we examined their influence on model predictions of ET by allowing their cover to be variable, fixed, or absent.
Plant Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 23, 2004
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