Effect of vertical resolution on predictions of transpiration in water-limited ecosystems

Andrew J. Guswa, Michael Anthony Celia, Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Water-limited ecosystems are characterized by precipitation with low annual totals and significant temporal variability, transpiration that is limited by soil-moisture availability, and infiltration events that may only partially rewet the vegetation root zone. Average transpiration in such environments is controlled by precipitation, and accurate predictions of vegetation health require adequate representation of temporal variation in the timing and intensity of plant uptake. Complexities introduced by variability in depth of infiltration, distribution of roots, and a plant's ability to compensate for spatially heterogeneous soil moisture suggest a minimum vertical resolution required for satisfactory representation of plant behavior. To explore the effect of vertical resolution on predictions of transpiration, we conduct a series of numerical experiments, comparing the results from models of varying resolution for a range of plant and climate conditions. From temporal and spatial scales of the underlying processes and desired output, we develop dimensionless parameters that indicate the adequacy of a finite-resolution model with respect to reproducing characteristics of plant transpiration over multiple growing seasons. These parameters may be used to determine the spatial resolution required to predict vegetation health in water-limited ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-480
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • Ecohydrology
  • Modeling
  • Root-water uptake
  • Soil-moisture
  • Transpiration


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