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.

Related Articles


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 April 19, 2015 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 April 19, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nervous Return to Everest a Year After Deadly Avalanche

Nervous Return to Everest a Year After Deadly Avalanche

AFP (Apr. 18, 2015) — In the Himalayan town of Lukla, excitement mingles with fear as mountaineers make their way up to Everest a year after an avalanche killed 16 guides and triggered an unprecedented shut-down of the world&apos;s highest peak. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
L.A. Water Cops Remind Residents of Water Conservation

L.A. Water Cops Remind Residents of Water Conservation

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2015) — "Water cops" in Los Angeles remind the public about water conservation methods amid California&apos;s prolonged drought. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Planet Defence Conference Tackles Asteroid Threat

Planet Defence Conference Tackles Asteroid Threat

AFP (Apr. 17, 2015) — Scientists gathered at a European Space Agency (ESA) facility outside Rome this week for the Planetary Defence Conference 2015 to discuss how to tackle the potential threat from asteroids hitting Earth. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gulf Scarred, Resilient 5 Years After BP Spill

Gulf Scarred, Resilient 5 Years After BP Spill

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) — Five years after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, splotches of oil still dot the seafloor and wads of tarry petroleum-smelling material hide in pockets in the marshes of Barataria Bay. (April 17) Video provided by AP
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