Groundwater use by vegetation in a tropical savanna riparian zone (Daly River, Australia)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal of Hydrology, 2005, 310 (1-4), pp. 280 - 293
Issue Date:
2005-08-01
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Soil water matric potentials (Ψm) and the deuterium (δ2H) composition at natural abundance levels of xylem water, soil water, river water and groundwater were used to evaluate whether trees use groundwater during the dry season in the riparian zone of the Daly River (Northern Territory, Australia). Groundwater was a significant source of water for plant transpiration, probably accounting for more than 50% of the water transpired during the dry season. Groundwater use occurred either when trees used water from the capillary fringe or when low Ψminduced by soil water uptake lifted groundwater in the vadose zone. Several water use strategies were inferred within the riparian plant community. Melaleuca argentea W. Fitzg and Barringtonia acutangula (L.) Gaertn. appeared to be obligate phreatophytes as they used groundwater almost exclusively and were associated with riverbanks and lower terraces with shallow (<5 m) water tables. Several species appeared to be facultative phreatophytes (including Cathorium umbellatum (Vahl.) Kosterm. and Acacia auriculiformis A. Cunn. ex Benth.) and tended to rely more heavily on soil water with increased elevation in the riparian zone. The levee-bound Corymbia bella K.D. Hill and L.A.S. Johnson mostly used soil water and is either a facultative phreatophyte or a non-phreatophyte. The temporal variability in groundwater utilisation by the trees is unclear because the study focused on the end of the dry season only. A decline in the regional water table as a result of groundwater pumping may affect the health of riparian zone vegetation in the Daly River because groundwater use is significant during the dry season. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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