Relationship between root water uptake and soil respiration: A modeling perspective

Bertrand Teodosio, Valentijn R. N. Pauwels, Steven P. Loheide II, Edoardo Daly

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Soil moisture affects and is affected by root water uptake and at the same time drives soil CO2 dynamics. Selecting root water uptake formulations in models is important since this affects the estimation of actual transpiration and soil CO2 efflux. This study aims to compare different models combining the Richards equation for soil water flow to equations describing heat transfer and air-phase CO2 production and flow. A root water uptake model (RWC), accounting only for root water compensation by rescaling water uptake rates across the vertical profile, was compared to a model (XWP) estimating water uptake as a function of the difference between soil and root xylem water potential; the latter model can account for both compensation (XWPRWC) and hydraulic redistribution (XWPHR). Models were compared in a scenario with a shallow water table, where the formulation of root water uptake plays an important role in modeling daily patterns and magnitudes of transpiration rates and CO2 efflux. Model simulations for this scenario indicated up to 20% difference in the estimated water that transpired over 50 days and up to 14% difference in carbon emitted from the soil. The models showed reduction of transpiration rates associated with water stress affecting soil CO2 efflux, with magnitudes of soil CO2 efflux being larger for the XWPHR model in wet conditions and for the RWC model as the soil dried down. The study shows the importance of choosing root water uptake models not only for estimating transpiration but also for other processes controlled by soil water content.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1954-1968
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • hydraulic redistribution
  • Richards equation
  • root water compensation
  • root water uptake
  • soil carbon efflux
  • soil respiration

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