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Sensing a Connection: Tree Distribution is Influenced by Deep Critical Zone Structure
  • Brady A Flinchum,
  • Ciaran J Harman,
  • Donald Hagan
Brady A Flinchum
Clemson University

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Ciaran J Harman
Johns Hopkins University
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Donald Hagan
Clemson University
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This study explores the impact of deep ( >5 m) critical zone (CZ) architecture on vegetation distribution in a semi-arid snow-dominated climate. Utilizing seismic refraction surveys, we identified a significant correlation between saprolite thickness and LiDAR-derived canopy heights (R²=0.47). We argue that CZ structure, specifically shallow fractured bedrock under valley bottoms, redirects groundwater to locations where trees are established—suggesting they are located in specific locations with access to nutrients and water. This work provides a unique spatially exhaustive perspective and adds to growing evidence that in addition to other factors such as slope, aspect, and climate, deep CZ structure plays a vital role in ecosystem development and resilience.
21 May 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
21 May 2024Published in ESS Open Archive