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Downward flux of water through roots (i.e. inverse hydraulic lift) in dry Kalahari sands

Schulze, E-D, MM Caldwell, J Canadell, HA Mooney, RB Jackson, D Parson, R Scholes, OE Sala, P Trimborn
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Downward transport of water in roots, in the following termed "inverse hydraulic lift," has previously been shown with heat flux techniques. But water flow into deeper soil layers was demonstrated in this study for the first time when investigating several perennial grass species of the Kalahari Desert under field conditions. Deuterium labelling was used to show that water acquired by roots from moist sand in the upper profile was transported through the root system to roots deeper in the profile and released into the dry sand at these depths. Inverse hydraulic lift may serve as an important mechanism to facilitate root growth through the dry soil layers underlaying the upper profile where precipitation penetrates. This may allow roots to reach deep sources of moisture in water-limited ecosystems such as the Kalahari Desert.

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