Ecohydrologic role of solar radiation on landscape evolution

Author
Keywords
Abstract
Solar radiation has a clear signature on the spatial organization of ecohydrologic fluxes, vegetation patterns and dynamics, and landscape morphology in semiarid ecosystems. Existing landscape evolution models (LEMs) do not explicitly consider spatially explicit solar radiation as model forcing. Here, we improve an existing LEM to represent coupled processes of energy, water, and sediment balance for semiarid fluvial catchments. To ground model predictions, a study site is selected in central New Mexico where hillslope aspect has a marked influence on vegetation patterns and landscape morphology. Model predictions are corroborated using limited field observations in central NM and other locations with similar conditions. We design a set of comparative LEM simulations to investigate the role of spatially explicit solar radiation on landscape ecohydro-geomorphic development under different uplift scenarios. Aspect-control and network-control are identified as the two main drivers of soil moisture and vegetation organization on the landscape. Landscape-scale and long-term implications of these short-term ecohdrologic patterns emerged in modeled landscapes. As north facing slopes (NFS) get steeper by continuing uplift they support erosion-resistant denser vegetation cover which leads to further slope steepening until erosion and uplift attains a dynamic equilibrium. Conversely, on south facing slopes (SFS), as slopes grow with uplift, increased solar radiation exposure with slope supports sparser biomass and shallower slopes. At the landscape scale, these differential erosion processes lead to asymmetric development of catchment forms, consistent with regional observations. Understanding of ecohydrogeomorphic evolution will improve to assess the impacts of past and future climates on landscape response and morphology.
Year of Publication
2015
Journal
Water Resources Research
Volume
51
Number of Pages
1127-1157
Date Published
02/2015
URL
http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/2014WR016169
DOI
10.1002/wrcr.v51.210.1002/2014WR016169