An accurate description of plant ecology requires an understanding of the interplay between precipitation, infiltration, and evapotranspiration. A simple model for soil moisture dynamics, which does not resolve spatial variations in saturation, facilitates analytical expressions of soil and plant behavior as functions of climate, soil, and vegetation characteristics. Proper application of such a model requires knowledge of the conditions under which the underlying simplifications are appropriate. To address this issue, we compare predictions of evapotranspiration and root zone saturation over a growing season from a simple bucket-filling model to those from a more complex, vertically resolved model. Dimensionless groups of key parameters measure the quality of the match between the models. For a climate, soil, and woody plant characteristic of an African savanna the predictions of the two models are quite similar if the plant can extract water from locally wet regions to make up for roots in dry portions of the soil column; if not, the match is poor.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Water Science and Technology
- Soil moisture