A new predictive model from USGS scientists gives the most detailed picture yet of plants’ projected success at enduring drought conditions, according to a release from the agency.
Using 50 years of perennial plant data, scientists tested hypothetical drought responses of plants in different landscapes, incorporating variables such as different soil and plant types.
The model shows that the plant drought response is more than a question of rainfall or climate. Some plants have deep root systems and survive better in soil that allows for substantial penetration of surface water. Other plants have shallow root systems and survive better in soils that do not allow for much water penetration. Water was also shown to move both vertically and horizontally through soil.
Development of the model is important, as several climate models predict drought to worsen in the U.S. A model predicting plant drought response will give resource managers ideas of where to focus their efforts and mitigate the effects of coming droughts. The USGS model’s inclusion of these critical variables will aid the U.S. in its response to future drought landscapes.