Will Pockman received a BA from Oberlin College and a PhD from the University of Utah. He is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology at the University of New Mexico. His research addresses the physiological limits to water transport in plants, the ecological implications of those limits, and plant and ecosystem responses to climate fluctuation and change.
Title: Tree Physiology in Arid Climates: Adaptations to Stormwater Surges and Persistent Drought
Water controls the growth and survival of woody plants in arid regions. The ability of plants to pull water from the soil is subject to physical limits set by the structure of their vascular tissue, which are, in turn, correlated with habitat preference and drought tolerance. While riparian species are relatively intolerant to drought, upland species exhibit a variety of traits that allow growth and survival through multi-year drought. Species composition also influences the distribution of water in the soil and water loss via evaporation and transpiration. For example, at night when plants are not transpiring, water may move through large root systems that connect wet and dry soil, sustaining shallow roots in dry soil, and even facilitating co-occurring species. These dynamics influence not only community composition in arid regions, but are relevant for designing landscapes that will thrive with sporadic precipitation, stormwater irrigation, and intervening periods of drought.