On the spatial and temporal links between vegetation, climate, and soil moisture

I. Rodriguez-Iturbe, P. D'Odorico, A. Porporato, L. Ridolfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

313 Scopus citations


The impact of climate fluctuations can be observed in the dynamics of vegetation and most particularly in the sensitive environment of savannas. In this paper we present a model for the local competition for soil moisture among neighboring vegetation. The initial condition for the model is a random field where at each point the soil moisture is the mean water content when there are no spatial interactions between sites. The mean soil moisture values account for stochasticity of climate and losses from evapotranspiration and leakage which depend on the existing water content. A spatial dynamics is then implemented based on the explicit minimization of the global water stress over the region. This approach explains the coexistence of herbaceous and woody plants in savannas as well as the changes in canopy density that have been documented in the southwest of the United States as a function of regional climatic fluctuations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3709-3722
Number of pages14
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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