Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study Indicates Thirsty Plants Keep Deserts' Subsurface Dry

Date:
April 13, 2005
Source:
University Of Texas At Austin
Summary:
Desert blooms -- plants that flourish in arid areas after rains -- might reduce water accumulation in soil should the climate shift toward wetter conditions, according to a study conducted by a team led by University of Texas at Austin hydrogeologists.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Desert blooms -- plants that flourish in arid areas after rains -- might reduce water accumulation in soil should the climate shift toward wetter conditions, according to a study conducted by a team led by University of Texas at Austin hydrogeologists.

By the same token, such vegetation keeps water from reaching the water table deep below the surface in such areas.

"Monitoring soil-water response to extreme El Niños in Nevada indicates that vegetation response will dampen the impact of increased precipitation and result in no net downward water movement to aquifers," said Bridget Scanlon, a senior research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology at the university.

The paper is to be published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Vegetation has, in fact, been drying out the soil in desert basins throughout the southwestern United States since the last glacial period, 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Satellite data indicate that these vegetation responses to increased precipitation occur in deserts globally.

Because plants can maintain dry conditions, minimizing leaching of wastes into underlying aquifers, important implications exist for radioactive and hazardous waste disposal, the study's results show.

The study provides important insights into links between climate, ecology and hydrology that are critical for water resources and waste disposal.

The hydrogeologists studied eight years (1994-2002) of soil-water storage data in vegetated and nonvegetated lysimeters in the Mojave Desert (Nevada) that are operated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Lysimeters, similar to the scales that weigh semis on the highway, are buried beneath the desert to precisely measure changes in the amounts of water in the soil.

The eight years included two El Nino weather patterns, which bring wetter and colder than normal weather during winter, each followed by a La Nina pattern, which brings drier and warmer weather during winter.

Even during the El Nino winter of 1997-1998--the largest of the 20th century, with rainfall as high as 2.5 times normal, the vegetation soaked it all up and did it quickly.

"Within two months, vegetation productivity increased tremendously and used up all the excess water," Scanlon said.

When the plants soak up water, they leave the water's chloride behind. By measuring chloride in soil water, therefore, the team also determined that this pattern of soil water movement has been ongoing for millennia.

"So vegetation has been able to maintain very dry conditions in these soils and create upward water movement," Scanlon said.

Study results should apply to deserts globally, as indicated by satellite data, which show large vegetation responses to wet El Nino periods in Australia, South America and Africa.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Texas At Austin. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Texas At Austin. "Study Indicates Thirsty Plants Keep Deserts' Subsurface Dry." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 April 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050413091059.htm>.
University Of Texas At Austin. (2005, April 13). Study Indicates Thirsty Plants Keep Deserts' Subsurface Dry. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050413091059.htm
University Of Texas At Austin. "Study Indicates Thirsty Plants Keep Deserts' Subsurface Dry." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050413091059.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Hurricane Gonzalo pounded Bermuda with wind and heavy surf on Friday, bearing down on the tiny British territory as a powerful Category 3 storm that could raise coastal seas as much as 10 feet. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) — Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) — Powerful hurricane could hit Bermuda this weekend, and even if it misses it will likely do some damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) — One of the largest volcanic eruptions in centuries is occurring on Iceland. The volcano Bardarbunga is producing high levels of sulfur dioxide. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins