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National Science Foundation (USA) 2009

An ecohydrological framework for understanding land degradation in dryland ecosystems

Ecohydrology Land Degradation


Titre : An ecohydrological framework for understanding land degradation in dryland ecosystems

Organismes NSF : Division Of Earth Sciences (EAR)

Durée : August 15, 2009 — July 31, 2014

This proposal will provide a novel perspective regarding how factors that impact dryland vegetation structure govern spatial and temporal patterns of plant water use and water use efficiency from individual to landscape scales. To accomplish this goal, an ecohydrological observatory will be created at the Princeton-affiliated Mpala Research Centre & Conservancy (MRCC), located in the Laikipia District of central Kenya. The observatory will be capable of resolving landscape-scale evaporation and transpiration separately using an integrated off-axis cavity spectrometer (ICOS) to measure the isotopic composition of water vapor fluxes between the land surface and the atmosphere. Prior calibration and validation activities have demonstrated the utility of this sensor for E/T partitioning, and the possibility of direct flux characterization using ICOS laser absorption methods at sampling frequencies of 0.5 Hz.
Three specific hypotheses form the heart of the research and educational plans : (1) The structural/functional organization of water-limited vegetation may be described according to a constrained optimization that seeks to both maximize water use (maintain high transpiration) and also minimize water stress (prevent low water use efficiency) across a range of scales and settings ; (2) Ecosystem-scale functional diversity in plant water use and water use efficiency (e.g. differing tree/grass water use in time and space) are critical to the maintenance of ecological and hydrological function in dryland ecosystems ; and (3) Shifts in the relative magnitude of various water balance components (e.g. transpiration/ evaporation) may be used as diagnostic signatures of land degradation in dryland ecosystems.
To address these hypotheses, the proposed research program will combine continuous ecohydrological measurements at a core site with simultaneous intensive shorter-term observations in both managed and experimentally manipulated plots. The combination of continuous data as well as targeted measurements will allow for direct tests of ecosystem response to water availability in landscapes differentially impacted by herbivory and land use intensity. The results of this research provide a unique quantitative framework for the development of land use strategies that seek to prevent land degradation and sustain pastoralist societies that depend on dryland ecosystems.

Partenaire (s) : Kelly Caylor caylor (Principal Investigator)

Financement : $1,543,738.00

Présentation (National Science Foundation)

Page publiée le 21 mars 2017, mise à jour le 7 novembre 2017