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Linking vegetation to climate using ecosystem pressure-volume relationships
  • +7
  • Oliver Binks,
  • Patrick Meir,
  • Alexandra Konings,
  • Lucas Cernusak,
  • Bradley Christoffersen,
  • William Anderegg,
  • Jeffrey Wood,
  • Lawren Sack,
  • Jordi Martinez-Vilalta,
  • Maurizio Mencuccini
Oliver Binks

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Patrick Meir
University of Edinburgh
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Alexandra Konings
Stanford University School of Earth Energy and Environmental Sciences
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Lucas Cernusak
Centre for Tropical Environmental Sustainability Studies, James Cook University, Cairns, QLD, 4878, Australia
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Bradley Christoffersen
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Bookstore
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William Anderegg
University of Utah
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Jeffrey Wood
University of Missouri
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Lawren Sack
University of California Los Angeles
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Jordi Martinez-Vilalta
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
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Maurizio Mencuccini
Institucio Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avancats
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The relationships between water potential and water content in plants and soil have long been of interest, and there is increasing focus on understanding how these fundamental measures are linked at larger spatial and temporal scales. In this Perspective, we explore how the theory of pressure-volume (PV) relationships can be applied at ecosystem scale. We define and evaluate the concept and limitations of the ecosystem and vegetation pressure-volume curves and discuss its application using existing data. As a proof of concept, plot-scale aboveground vegetation PV curves were generated from equilibrium (e.g. predawn) water potentials and water content of the above ground biomass of nine plots including tropical rainforest, savanna, temperate forest, and a long-term Amazonian rainforest drought experiment. Initial findings suggest high consistency among sites where the steady-state water:biomass ratio is approximately 1:3, while the relative values of ecosystem hydraulic capacitance and accessible water storage (the water volume between saturation and a threshold) do not vary systematically with biomass. The ecosystem-scale PV relationship provides a thermodynamically consistent steady-state view of ecosystem form and function and a biophysically robust basis for the interpretation of remote sensing data of vegetation and soil water content, with promise for revealing useful trends across ecosystems.