Matching Items (9)

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Integration of remote sensing, field observations and modelling for ecohydrological studies in Sonora, Mexico

Description

Ecohydrological responses to rainfall in the North American monsoon (NAM) region lead to complex surface-atmosphere interactions. In early summer, it is expected that soil properties and topography act as primary

Ecohydrological responses to rainfall in the North American monsoon (NAM) region lead to complex surface-atmosphere interactions. In early summer, it is expected that soil properties and topography act as primary controls in hydrologic processes. Under the presence of strongly dynamic ecosystems, catchment hydrology is expected to vary substantially in comparison to other semiarid areas, affecting our understanding of ecohydrological processes and the parameterization of predictive models. A large impediment toward making progress in this field is the lack of spatially extensive observational data. As a result, it is critical to integrate numerical models, remote sensing observations and ground data to understand and predict ecohydrological dynamics in space and time, including soil moisture, evapotranspiration and runoff generation dynamics. In this thesis, a set of novel ecohydrological simulations that integrate remote sensing and ground observations were conducted at three spatial scales in a semiarid river basin in northern Sonora, Mexico. First, single site simulations spanning several summers were carried out in two contrasting mountain ecosystems to predict evapotranspiration partitioning. Second, a catchment-scale simulation was conducted to evaluate the effects of spatially-variable soil thickness and textural properties on water fluxes and states during one monsoon season. Finally, a river basin modeling effort spanning seven years was applied to understand interannual variability in ecohydrological dynamics. Results indicated that ecohydrological simulations with a dynamic representation of vegetation greening tracked well the seasonal evolution of observed evapotranspiration and soil moisture at two measurement locations. A switch in the dominant component of evapotranspiration from soil evaporation to plant transpiration was observed for each ecosystem, depending on the timing and magnitude of vegetation greening. Furthermore, spatially variable soil thickness affects subsurface flow while soil texture controls patterns of surface soil moisture and evapotranspiration during the transition from dry to wet conditions. Finally, the ratio of transformation of precipitation into evapotranspiration (ET/P) and run off (Q/P) changed in space and time as summer monsoon progresses. The results of this research improve the understanding of the ecohydrology of NAM region, which can be useful for developing sustainable watershed management plans in the face of anticipated land cover and climate changes.

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Date Created
  • 2014

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Modeling soil moisture dynamics of landscape irrigation in desert cities

Description

The history of outdoor water use in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area has given rise to a general landscape aesthetic and pattern of residential irrigation that seem in discord with

The history of outdoor water use in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area has given rise to a general landscape aesthetic and pattern of residential irrigation that seem in discord with the natural desert environment. While xeric landscaping that incorporates native desert ecology has potential for reducing urban irrigation demand, there are societal and environmental factors that make mesic landscaping, including shade trees and grass lawns, a common choice for residential yards. In either case, there is potential for water savings through irrigation schedules based on fluxes affecting soil moisture in the active plant rooting zone. In this thesis, a point-scale model of soil moisture dynamics was applied to two urban sites in the Phoenix area: one with xeric landscaping, and one with mesic. The model was calibrated to observed soil moisture data from irrigated and non-irrigated sensors, with local daily precipitation and potential evapotranspiration records as model forcing. Simulations were then conducted to investigate effects of irrigation scheduling, plant stress parameters, and precipitation variability on soil moisture dynamics, water balance partitioning, and plant water stress. Results indicated a substantial difference in soil water storage capacity at the two sites, which affected sensitivity to irrigation scenarios. Seasonal variation was critical in avoiding unproductive water losses at the xeric site, and allowed for small water savings at the mesic site by maintaining mild levels of plant stress. The model was also used to determine minimum annual irrigation required to achieve specified levels of plant stress at each site using long-term meteorological records. While the xeric site showed greater potential for water savings, a bimodal schedule consisting of low winter and summer irrigation was identified as a means to conserve water at both sites, with moderate levels of plant water stress. For lower stress levels, potential water savings were found by fixing irrigation depth and seasonally varying the irrigation interval, consistent with municipal recommendations in the Phoenix metropolitan area. These results provide a deeper understanding of the ecohydrologic differences between the two types of landscape treatments, and can assist water and landscape managers in identifying opportunities for water savings in desert urban areas.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Hydroclimatic controls on erosional efficiency in mountain landscapes

Description

Climate and its influence on hydrology and weathering is a key driver of surface processes on Earth. Despite its clear importance to hazard generation, fluvial sediment transport and erosion, the

Climate and its influence on hydrology and weathering is a key driver of surface processes on Earth. Despite its clear importance to hazard generation, fluvial sediment transport and erosion, the drawdown of atmospheric CO2 via the rock cycle, and feedbacks between climate and tectonics, quantifying climatic controls on long-term erosion rates has proven to be one of the grand problems in geomorphology. In fact, recent attempts addressing this problem using cosmogenic radionuclide (CRN) derived erosion rates suggest very weak climatic controls on millennial-scale erosion rates contrary to expectations. In this work, two challenges are addressed that may be impeding progress on this problem.

The first challenge is choosing appropriate climate metrics that are closely tied to erosional processes. For example, in fluvial landscapes, most runoff events do little to no geomorphic work due to erosion thresholds, and event-scale variability dictates how frequently these thresholds are exceeded. By analyzing dense hydroclimatic datasets in the contiguous U.S. and Puerto Rico, we show that event-scale runoff variability is only loosely related to event-scale rainfall variability. Instead, aridity and fractional evapotranspiration (ET) losses are much better predictors of runoff variability. Importantly, simple hillslope-scale soil water balance models capture major aspects of the observed relation between runoff variability and fractional ET losses. Together, these results point to the role of vegetation water use as a potential key to relating mean hydrologic partitioning with runoff variability.

The second challenge is that long-term erosion rates are expected to balance rock uplift rates as landscapes approach topographic steady state, regardless of hydroclimatic setting. This is illustrated with new data along the Main Gulf Escarpment, Baja, Mexico. Under this conceptual framework, climate is not expected to set the erosion rate, but rather the erosional efficiency of the system, or the steady-state relief required for erosion to keep up with tectonically driven uplift rates. To assess differences in erosional efficiency across landscapes experiencing different climatic regimes, we contrast new CRN data from tectonically active landscapes in Baja, Mexico and southern California (arid) with northern Honduras (very humid) alongside other published global data from similar hydroclimatic settings. This analysis shows how climate does, in fact, set functional relationships between topographic metrics like channel steepness and long-term erosion rates. However, we also show that relatively small differences in rock erodibility and incision thresholds can easily overprint hydroclimatic controls on erosional efficiency motivating the need for more field based constraints on these important variables.

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Date Created
  • 2014

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The effect of plant neighbors on a common desert shrub's physiology and evapotranspiration

Description

Hydrological models in arid and semi-arid ecosystems can be subject to high uncertainties. Spatial variability in soil moisture and evapotranspiration, key components of the water cycle, can contribute to model

Hydrological models in arid and semi-arid ecosystems can be subject to high uncertainties. Spatial variability in soil moisture and evapotranspiration, key components of the water cycle, can contribute to model uncertainty. In particular, an understudied source of spatial variation is the effect of plant-plant interactions on water fluxes. At patch scales (plant and associated soil), plant neighbors can either negatively or positively affect soil water availability via competition or hydraulic redistribution, respectively. The aboveground microclimate can also be altered via canopy shading effects by neighbors. Across longer timescales (years), plants may adjust their physiological (water-use) traits in response to the neighbor-altered microclimate, which subsequently affects transpiration rates. The influence of physiological adjustments and neighbor-altered microclimate on water fluxes was assessed around Larrea tridentata in the Sonoran Desert. Field measurements of Larrea’s stomatal behavior and vertical root distributions were used to examine the effects of neighbors on Larrea’s physiological controls on transpiration. A modeling based approach was implemented to explore the sensitivity of evapotranspiration and soil moisture to neighbor effects. Neighbors significantly altered both above- and belowground physiological controls on evapotranspiration. Compared to Larrea growing alone, neighbors increased Larrea’s annual transpiration by up to 75% and 30% at the patch and stand scales, respectively. Estimates of annual transpiration were highly sensitive to the presence/absence of competition for water, and on seasonal timescales, physiological adjustments significantly influenced transpiration estimates. Plant-plant interactions can be a significant source of spatial variation in ecohydrological models, and both physiological adjustments to neighbors and neighbor effects on microclimate affect small scale (patch to ecosystem) water fluxes.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Using an ecohydrology model to explore the role of biological soil crusts on soil hydrologic conditions at the Canyonlands Research Station, Utah

Description

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) dominate the soil surface of drylands in the western United States and possess properties thought to influence local hydrology. Little agreement exists, however, on the effects

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) dominate the soil surface of drylands in the western United States and possess properties thought to influence local hydrology. Little agreement exists, however, on the effects of BSCs on runoff, infiltration, and evaporative rates. This study aims to improve the predictive capability of an ecohydrology model in order to understand how BSCs affect the storage, retention, and infiltration of water into soils characteristic of the Colorado Plateau. A set of soil moisture measurements obtained at a climate manipulation experiment near Moab, Utah, are used for model development and testing. Over five years, different rainfall treatments over experimental plots resulted in the development of BSC cover with different properties that influence soil moisture differently. This study used numerical simulations to isolate the relative roles of different BSC properties on the hydrologic response at the plot-scale. On-site meteorological, soil texture and vegetation property datasets are utilized as inputs into a ecohydrology model, modified to include local processes: (1) temperature-dependent precipitation partitioning, snow accumulation and melt, (2) seasonally-variable potential evapotranspiration, (3) plant species-specific transpiration factors, and (4) a new module to account for the water balance of the BSC. Soil, BSC and vegetation parameters were determined from field measurements or through model calibration to the soil moisture observations using the Shuffled Complex Evolution algorithm. Model performance is assessed against five years of soil moisture measurements at each experimental site, representing a wide range of crust cover properties. Simulation experiments were then carried out using the calibrated ecohydrology model in which BSC parameters were varied according to the level of development of the BSC, as represented by the BSC roughness. These results indicate that BSCs act to both buffer against evaporative soil moisture losses by enhancing BSC moisture evaporation and significantly alter the rates of soil water infiltration by reducing moisture storage and increasing conductivity in the BSC. The simulation results for soil water infiltration, storage and retention across a wide range of meteorological events help explain the conflicting hydrologic outcomes present in the literature on BSCs. In addition, identifying how BSCs mediate infiltration and evaporation processes has implications for dryland ecosystem function in the western United States.

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  • 2015

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Assessing land-atmosphere interactions through distributed footprint sampling at two eddy covariance towers in semiarid ecosystems of the Southwestern U.S

Description

Land-atmosphere interactions of semiarid shrublands have garnered significant scientific interest. One of the main tools used for this research is the eddy covariance (EC) method, which measures fluxes of energy,

Land-atmosphere interactions of semiarid shrublands have garnered significant scientific interest. One of the main tools used for this research is the eddy covariance (EC) method, which measures fluxes of energy, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. EC fluxes can be difficult to interpret due to complexities within the EC footprint (i.e. the surface conditions that contribute to the flux measurements). Most EC studies use a small number of soil probes to estimate the land surface states underlying the measured fluxes, which likely undersamples the footprint-scale conditions, especially in semiarid shrublands which are characterized by high spatial and temporal variability. In this study, I installed a dense network of soil moisture and temperature probe profiles in the footprint region of an EC tower at two semiarid sites: a woody savanna in southern Arizona and a mixed shrubland in southern New Mexico. For data from May to September 2013, I link land surface states to EC fluxes through daily footprints estimated using an analytical model. Novel approaches are utilized to partition evapotranspiration, estimate EC footprint soil states, connect differences in fluxes to footprint composition, and assess key drivers behind soil state variability. I verify the hypothesis that a small number of soil probes poorly estimates the footprint conditions for soil moisture, due to its high spatial variability. Soil temperature, however, behaves more consistently in time and space. As such, distributed surface measurements within the EC footprint allow for stronger ties between evapotranspiration and moisture, but demonstrate no significant improvement in connecting sensible heat flux and temperature. I also find that in these systems vegetation cover appears to have stronger controls on soil moisture and temperature than does soil texture. Further, I explore the influence of footprint vegetation composition on the measured fluxes, which reveals that during the monsoon season evaporative fraction tends to increase with footprint bare soil coverage for the New Mexico site and that the ratio of daily transpiration to evapotranspiration increases with grass coverage at the Arizona site. The thesis results are useful for understanding the land-atmosphere interactions of these ecosystems and for guiding future EC studies in heterogeneous landscapes.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Hillslope scale hydrologic spatial patterns in a patchy Ponderosa pine landscape: insights from distributed hydrologic modeling

Description

Ponderosa pine forests are a dominant land cover type in semiarid montane areas. Water supplies in major rivers of the southwestern United States depend on ponderosa pine forests since these

Ponderosa pine forests are a dominant land cover type in semiarid montane areas. Water supplies in major rivers of the southwestern United States depend on ponderosa pine forests since these ecosystems: (1) receive a significant amount of rainfall and snowfall, (2) intercept precipitation and transpire water, and (3) indirectly influence runoff by impacting the infiltration rate. However, the hydrologic patterns in these ecosystems with strong seasonality are poorly understood. In this study, we used a distributed hydrologic model evaluated against field observations to improve our understandings on spatial controls of hydrologic patterns, appropriate model resolution to simulate ponderosa pine ecosystems and hydrologic responses in the context of contrasting winter to summer transitions. Our modeling effort is focused on the hydrologic responses during the North American Monsoon (NAM), winter and spring periods. In Chapter 2, we utilized a distributed model explore the spatial controls on simulated soil moisture and temporal evolution of these spatial controls as a function of seasonal wetness. Our findings indicate that vegetation and topographic curvature are spatial controls. Vegetation controlled patterns during dry summer period switch to fine-scale terrain curvature controlled patterns during persistently wet NAM period. Thus, a climatic threshold involving rainfall and weather conditions during the NAM is identified when high rainfall amount (such as 146 mm rain in August, 1997) activates lateral flux of soil moisture and frequent cloudy cover (such as 42% cloud cover during daytime of August, 1997) lowers evapotranspiration. In Chapter 3, we investigate the impacts of model coarsening on simulated soil moisture patterns during the NAM. Results indicate that model aggregation quickly eradicates curvature features and its spatial control on hydrologic patterns. A threshold resolution of ~10% of the original terrain is identified through analyses of homogeneity indices, correlation coefficients and spatial errors beyond which the fidelity of simulated soil moisture is no longer reliable. Based on spatial error analyses, we detected that the concave areas (~28% of hillslope) are very sensitive to model coarsening and root mean square error (RMSE) is higher than residual soil moisture content (~0.07 m3/m3 soil moisture) for concave areas. Thus, concave areas need to be sampled for capturing appropriate hillslope response for this hillslope. In Chapter 4, we investigate the impacts of contrasting winter to summer transitions on hillslope hydrologic responses. We use a distributed hydrologic model to generate a consistent set of high-resolution hydrologic estimates. Our model is evaluated against the snow depth, soil moisture and runoff observations over two water years yielding reliable spatial distributions during the winter to summer transitions. We find that a wet winter followed by a dry summer promotes evapotranspiration losses (spatial averaged ~193 mm spring ET and ~ 600 mm summer ET) that dry the soil and disconnect lateral fluxes in the forested hillslope, leading to soil moisture patterns resembling vegetation patches. Conversely, a dry winter prior to a wet summer results in soil moisture increases due to high rainfall and low ET during the spring (spatially averaged 78 mm ET and 232 mm rainfall) and summer period (spatially averaged 147 mm ET and 247 mm rainfall) which promote lateral connectivity and soil moisture patterns with the signature of terrain curvature. An opposing temporal switch between infiltration and saturation excess runoff is also identified. These contrasting responses indicate that the inverse relation has significant consequences on hillslope water availability and its spatial distribution with implications on other ecohydrological processes including vegetation phenology, groundwater recharge and geomorphic development. Results from this work have implications on the design of hillslope experiments, the resolution of hillslope scale models, and the prediction of hydrologic conditions in ponderosa pine ecosystems. In addition, our findings can be used to select future hillslope sites for detailed ecohydrological investigations. Further, the proposed methodology can be useful for predicting responses to climate and land cover changes that are anticipated for the southwestern United States.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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The pika and the watershed

Description

As much as 40% of the world's human population relies on rivers which originate on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) (Xu et al. 2009, Immerzeel et al. 2010). However, the high

As much as 40% of the world's human population relies on rivers which originate on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) (Xu et al. 2009, Immerzeel et al. 2010). However, the high alpine grasslands where these rivers emanate are at a crossroads. Fed by seasonal monsoon rains and glacial runoff, these rivers' frequent flooding contributes to massive losses of life and property downstream (Varis et al. 2012). Additionally, upstream grasslands, which regulate the flow of these rivers, are considered to be deteriorating (Harris 2010). This thesis examines the regional vulnerability of these rivers and highlights the impacts of several policy responses, finding that both climate change and grassland degradation pose significant challenges to Asia's water security. Additionally, I suggest that many of the responses elicited by policy makers to meet these challenges have failed. One of these policies has been the poisoning of a small, endemic, burrowing mammal and keystone species, the plateau pika (Ochotona curzoniae) (Smith and Foggin 1999). Contrary to their putative classification as a pest (Fan et al. 1999), I show that the plateau pika is instead an ecosystem engineer that actively increases the infiltration rate of water on the QTP with concomitant benefits to both local ecosystems and downstream hydrological processes.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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How will hydrologic change alter riparian plant communities of the arid and semi-arid Southwest?: the problem approached from two perspectives

Description

Climate change has the potential to affect vegetation via changes in temperature and precipitation. In the semi-arid southwestern United States, heightened temperatures will likely lead to accelerated groundwater pumping to

Climate change has the potential to affect vegetation via changes in temperature and precipitation. In the semi-arid southwestern United States, heightened temperatures will likely lead to accelerated groundwater pumping to meet human needs, and altered storm patterns may lead to changes in flood regimes. All of these hydrologic changes have the potential to alter riparian vegetation. This research, consisting of two papers, examines relationships between hydrology and riparian vegetation along the Verde River in central Arizona, from applied and theoretical perspectives. One paper investigates how dominance of tree and shrub species and cover of certain functional groups change along hydrologic gradients. The other paper uses the Verde River flora along with that river's flood and moisture gradients to answer the question of whether functional groups can be defined universally. Drying of the Verde River would lead to a shift from cottonwood-willow streamside forest to more drought adapted desert willow or saltcedar, a decline in streamside marsh species, and decreased species richness. Effects drying will have on one dominant forest tree, velvet ash, is unclear. Increase in the frequency of large floods would potentially increase forest density and decrease average tree age and diameter. Correlations between functional traits of Verde River plants and hydrologic gradients are consistent with "leaf economics," or the axis of resource capture, use, and release, as the primary strategic trade-off for plants. This corresponds to the competitor-stress tolerator gradient in Grime's life history strategy theory. Plant height was also a strong indicator of hydrologic condition, though it is not clear from the literature if plant height is independent enough of leaf characteristics on a global scale to be considered a second axis. Though the ecohydrologic relationships are approached from different perspectives, the results of the two papers are consistent if interpreted together. The species that are currently dominant in the near-channel Verde River floodplain are tall, broad-leaf trees, and the species that are predicted to become more dominant in the case of the river drying are shorter trees or shrubs with smaller leaves. These results have implications for river and water management, as well as theoretical ecology.

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Date Created
  • 2011