Plant Diversity ›› 2017, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (01): 1-12.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2016.10.001

• Review •    

Trait-based representation of hydrological functional properties of plants in weather and ecosystem models

Ashley M. Matheny, Golnazalsadat Mirfenderesgi, Gil Bohrer   

  1. Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA
  • Received:2016-04-20 Revised:2016-10-03 Published:2021-11-05
  • Contact: Ashley M. Matheny
  • Supported by:
    We thank Simone Fatichi and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful insights and thoughtful consideration of this work. Funding for this study was provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation Hydrological Science grant 1521238, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Terrestrial Ecosystem Sciences Program Award No. DE-SC0007041, and Ameriflux Management Project Core Site Agreement No. 7096915. Support for A.M. Matheny was provided by The Ohio State University Presidential Fellowship and the P.E.O. Scholar Award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies.

Abstract: Land surface models and dynamic global vegetation models typically represent vegetation through coarse plant functional type groupings based on leaf form, phenology, and bioclimatic limits. Although these groupings were both feasible and functional for early model generations, in light of the pace at which our knowledge of functional ecology, ecosystem demographics, and vegetation-climate feedbacks has advanced and the ever growing demand for enhanced model performance, these groupings have become antiquated and are identified as a key source of model uncertainty. The newest wave of model development is centered on shifting the vegetation paradigm away from plant functional types (PFTs) and towards flexible trait-based representations. These models seek to improve errors in ecosystem fluxes that result from information loss due to over-aggregation of dissimilar species into the same functional class. We advocate the importance of the inclusion of plant hydraulic trait representation within the new paradigm through a framework of the whole-plant hydraulic strategy. Plant hydraulic strategy is known to play a critical role in the regulation of stomatal conductance and thus transpiration and latent heat flux. It is typical that coexisting plants employ opposing hydraulic strategies, and therefore have disparate patterns of water acquisition and use. Hydraulic traits are deterministic of drought resilience, response to disturbance, and other demographic processes. The addition of plant hydraulic properties in models may not only improve the simulation of carbon and water fluxes but also vegetation population distributions.

Key words: Hydraulic traits, Land-surface modeling, Whole-plant hydraulic strategy, Trait-based models, Demographic models, Plant functional type