Vegetation effects on the water balance of mountain grasslands depend on climatic conditions

Obojes, N. and Bahn, M. and Tasser, E. and Walden, J. and Inauen, Nicole and Hiltbrunner, Erika and Saccone, P. and Lochet, J. and Clement, J. C. and Lavorel, S. and Tappeiner, U. and Körner, Christian. (2015) Vegetation effects on the water balance of mountain grasslands depend on climatic conditions. Ecohydrology, 8 (4). pp. 552-569.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/40015/

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Mountain regions are key for humanity's water supply, and their water yield depends on climatic, soil and vegetation effects. Here we explore the effects of vegetation composition and structure on the water balance of high elevation grasslands with different climatic conditions across the Alps. Using a total of 220 deep seepage collectors with intact soil-vegetation monoliths in different types of mountain grasslands in the Austrian, French and Swiss Alps, we solved the water balance equation for evapotranspiration (ET) and related the results to biomass, the abundance of certain plant functional types and structural and functional vegetation properties. While daily mean ET during the growing season was similar at all sites, ET to precipitation ratios were significantly higher and ET to potential ET ratios significantly lower at the drier French sites than at the more humid Swiss and Austrian site. Large variability of ET, seepage and soil moisture within all sites pointed at a high influence of vegetation on the water balance. While ET increased significantly with biomass at all sites, the influence of other vegetation properties was site specific. At the more humid, subalpine Austrian site the effects of vegetation on ET were stronger and more diverse than at the higher elevation Swiss site and the drier French sites, where climatic drivers dominated ET. The potential to influence ET and water yield of mountain areas by manipulating the plant canopy with systematic land management is therefore higher in regions with good growing conditions than in areas with harsh climate.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Ehemalige Einheiten Umweltwissenschaften > Pflanzenökologie (Körner)
UniBasel Contributors:Körner, Christian and Hiltbrunner, Erika
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell - STM
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Identification Number:
Last Modified:30 Jun 2016 11:00
Deposited On:01 Jun 2016 06:59

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