An assessment of diurnal water uptake in a mesic prairie: evidence for hydraulic lift?

TitleAn assessment of diurnal water uptake in a mesic prairie: evidence for hydraulic lift?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsO’Keefe, K, Nippert, JB
Date PublishedFeb-02-2017
Accession NumberKNZ001804
KeywordsHydraulic lift, Stable, tallgrass prairie, Transpiration, Water potential
AbstractHydraulic lift, the passive movement of water through plant roots from wet to dry soil, is an important ecohydrological process in a wide range of water-limited ecosystems. This phenomenon may also alter plant functioning, growth, and survival in mesic grasslands, where soil moisture is spatially and temporally variable. Here, we monitored diurnal changes in the isotopic signature of soil and plant xylem water to assess (1) whether hydraulic lift occurs in woody and herbaceous tallgrass prairie species (Rhus glabra, Amorpha canescens, Vernonia baldwinii, and Andropogon gerardii), (2) if nocturnal transpiration or grazing by large ungulates limits hydraulic lift, and (3) if a dominant grass, A. gerardii, utilizes water lifted by other tallgrass prairie species. Broadly, the results shown here suggest that hydraulic lift does not appear to be widespread or common in this system, but isolated instances suggest that this process does occur within tallgrass prairie. The isolated instance of hydraulic lift did not vary by grazing treatment, nor did they result in facilitation for neighboring grasses. We suggest that the topographic complexity of this tallgrass prairie and the high rates of nocturnal transpiration observed in this study likely limit the frequency and occurrence of hydraulic lift. These results suggest that hydraulic lift can be a patchy process, particularly in heterogeneous landscapes.