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Title: Impacts of precipitation variability on plant species and community water stress in a temperate deciduous forest in the central US

Variations in precipitation regimes can shift ecosystem structure and function by altering frequency, severity and timing of plant water stress. There is a need for predictively understanding impacts of precipitation regimes on plant water stress in relation to species water use strategies. Here we first formulated two complementary, physiologically-linked measures of precipitation variability (PV) - Precipitation Variability Index (PVI) and Average Recurrence Interval of Effective Precipitation (ARIEP). We then used nine-year continuous measurements of Predawn Leaf Water Potential Integral (PLWPI) in a central US forest to relate PVI and ARIEP to actual plant water availability and comparative water stress responses of six species with different capacities to regulate their internal water status. We found that PVI and ARIEP explained nearly all inter-annual variations in PLWPI for all species as well as for the community scaled from species measurements. The six species investigated showed differential sensitivities to variations in precipitation regimes. Their sensitivities were reflected more in the responses to PVI and ARIEP than to the mean precipitation rate. Further, they exhibited tradeoffs between responses to low and high PV. Finally, PVI and ARIEP were closely correlated with temporal integrals of positive temperature anomalies and vapor pressure deficit. We suggest thatmore » the comparative responses of plant species to PV are part of species-specific water use strategies in a plant community facing the uncertainty of fluctuating precipitation regimes. In conclusion, PVI and ARIEP should be adopted as key indices to quantify physiological drought and the ecological impacts of precipitation regimes in a changing climate.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [3]
  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  2. Univ. of Missouri, Columbia, MO (United States)
  3. Univ. of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
AC05-00OR22725; FG02-03ER63683
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 217; Journal ID: ISSN 0168-1923
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; precipitation variability index; average recurrence interval; effective precipitation; predawn leaf water potential; physiological drought
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1397577