Temporal variation and controlling factors of tree water consumption in the thornbush savanna

  • Acacia mellifera
  • Senegalia mellifera
  • Sapflow
  • Soil water
  • Drought
  • hysteresis
  • For a typical encroacher tree of the thornbush savanna, we studied the responses of water consumption to changes in soil water availability within 80 cm depth, vapor pressure deficit (VPD), and global radiation. Therefore, we monitored the sap velocities of Senegalia mellifera trees over 2 years in a maximum of 20 stems (6–15 plant individuals) per measurement period on a site in central Namibia. For this water-restricted ecosystem we aimed to understand the role of an encroacher tree on soil water dynamics and potential groundwater recharge. At the day-to-day scale, soil water was the primary driver of cumulative daily sap velocities (Qn-day). In the dry season, Qn-day decreased with increasing soil drought. Rainy seasons triggered multiple sapflow phases, initiated by soil-wetting rain events and associated with increase of soil water. Maximum attainable Qn-day increased with VPD and radiation. We hypothesize a 3-stage response of tree water use to soil water tension (SWT): (1) SWT <pF 2.6–2.7: soil water is optimal for transpiration; (2) pF 2.6–2.7 <SWT <pF 3.2–3.7: transpiration decreases with soil drought; (3) SWT >pF 3.2–3.7: trees minimize transpiration. Our findings contribute to the under-standing of tree–grass coexistence in savannas. The responses of tree water use to soil water within 80 cm depth indicate that S. mellifera exploits the same depths as grasses, in contrast to the classic hypothesis of vertical niche differentiation.
  • info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess
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