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 Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

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: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>