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Ecología austral

On-line version ISSN 1667-782X


BUCCI, Sandra J; SCHOLZ, Fabián G; IOGNA, Patricia A  and  GOLDSTEIN, Guillermo. Water economy of woody species from the Patagonian steppes. Ecol. austral [online]. 2011, vol.21, n.1, pp.43-60. ISSN 1667-782X.

The vegetation of the Patagonian steppe is exposed to low soil water and nutrient availability, low temperatures and strong and frequent winds. These factors determine the structure and functioning of the steppe and influence the morpho-physiological traits of species. This review emphasizes the effects of soil water spatial-temporal dynamics on plant water status and on the hydraulic architecturse of 10 woody species with rooting depths ranging from 50 to 200 cm. Soil water availability in the Patagonian steppe increases with depth and with increasing rainfall during the winter. Species with deep roots exploring dependable soil water sources such as Schinus johnstonii Barkley and Berberis heterophylla Jussieu Lam have less negative minimum leaf water potentials and lower water transport efficiency (low specific hydraulic conductivity) than species with shallow root systems such as Senecio filaginoides De Candolle and Mulinum spinosum (Cav.) Pers. Hydraulic characteristics of species with deep roots taping deeper water sources could limit the response to summer rainfall pulses. Despite that intrisic and time-integrated water use efficiency and leafmass-based photosynthesis rates are highest in species with deep root systems, their low hydraulic capacity, dense wood, and large soil-to-leaf water potential gradients, suggest that these species have relatively low growth rates which can be sustained over relatively long periods. Questions for future studies are suggested, including why species with deep roots are only using a portion of the water resources of moist soil layers.

Keywords : Soil water content; wood density; Patagonia Occidental District; Hydraulic efficiency; Soil and leaf water potential; Rooting depth.

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