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Managing perennial revegetation in a changing climate: some lessons from ecohydrology

Smettem, K.R.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2650-4429, Harper, R.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-0268-2917, Waring, R.H. and Callow, N. (2011) Managing perennial revegetation in a changing climate: some lessons from ecohydrology. In: American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting, 5 - 9 December, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Interest in understanding the impacts of land use and climate change on ecosystem processes has emerged as a major area of research spanning the biological and physical sciences. South-West Australia faces a drying climate under all Global Climate Model (GCM) scenarios and over the last three decades there has already been a major decline in the volume of surface water resources available for the metropolitan water supply of the region. Climate change has been superimposed on major land use changes that have altered the water and salt balances of many catchments in this part of Australia. In the drier agricultural regions of South-West Australia that experience an annual water deficit, land clearing has resulted in increased groundwater recharge and there has been ongoing interest in the use of perennial vegetation to control groundwater rise by enhancing transpiration losses. Ecological optimality provides a first-order framework for understanding the relation between climate, leaf area index and biomass, which in turn influences catchment evapotranspiration (ET) and carbon sequestration. We review the results from a number of revegetation studies to understand the factors limiting the growth and survival of woody perennials in the landscape. By examining the inter-annual variations in leaf area index of native forested catchments using data from NASA's MODIS Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, we first relate LAI to climate indices and then develop allometric equations to estimate wood mass and carbon storage. Assuming that native perennial vegetation is in dynamic equilibrium with climate and provides a 'reference' state , we identify conditions under which perennial revegetation schemes can be deliberately designed to move outside the ecologically optimal range to achieve specific land management objectives.

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