Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study indicates thirsty plants keep deserts’ subsurface dry

12.04.2005


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.

Tim Green | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utexas.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>