August 31, 2023
Journal Article

Ecohydrological Decoupling under Changing Disturbances and Climate


Terrestrial disturbances are increasing in frequency and severity, perturbing the hydrologic cycle by altering vegetation-mediated water use and microclimate. Changes in the hydrological cycle alter vegetation succession, which is additionally influenced by changing climate and atmospheric CO2. The interacting drivers and feedbacks between disturbances, climate, and vegetation cause uncertainty regarding the sustainable provision of freshwater through streamflow. Here we synthesize the literature on post-disturbance ecohydrological coupling, in particular, including the mechanistic relationship between vegetation and streamflow, under changing disturbance regimes, atmospheric CO2, and climate. Disturbance can cause decoupling between transpiration and streamflow by altering the connectivity, size, availability, and spatial distribution of their source pools. Decoupling increases when soil moisture is low due to reduced connectivity, and when soil moisture is high and Q and T are independent. Successional trajectories regulate the physiological and physical features influencing influence the dynamics of source water partitioning. Changing climate and disturbance regimes can alter succession and prolong decoupling, with potential moderation by CO2. Increasing rates, severity, and spread of disturbances along with warming could promote greater decoupling globally. From this review emerges a framework of testable hypotheses that identify the critical processes regulating ecohydrological coupling and provides a roadmap for future research. Accurate prediction of post-disturbance coupling and subsequent water availability for human consumption requires understanding the degree of hydraulic connectivity between source water pools for transpiration and streamflow and their response to succession under changing disturbance and climate regimes.

Published: August 31, 2023


McDowell N.G., K.J. Anderson-Teixeira, J.A. Biederman, D.D. Breshears, Y. Fang, L. Fernandez De Una, and E.B. Graham, et al. 2023. Ecohydrological Decoupling under Changing Disturbances and Climate. One Earth 6, no. 3:251-266. PNNL-SA-189590. doi:10.1016/j.oneear.2023.02.007

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