Small rainfall events: An ecological role in semiarid regions

Osvaldo Sala, W. K. Lauenroth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

367 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Small precipitation events account for a large proportion of the precipitation received in semiarid regions, and their potential ecological importance has previously been ignored. We investigated the effect of a small rainfall event (5 mm) upon Bouteloua gracilis, the dominant grass species of the central and southern Great Plains of North America. An effect of a small event on leaf water potential and leaf conductance to water vapor was observed in less than 12 h and lasted for up to two days. The remarkable short response time of Bouteloua gracilis to a rainfall stimulus enables this species to utilize small events and, therefore, may influence its persistence as a dominant species in the steppe region. We proposed response times to be one of the major species characteristics determining capacity for utilizing different portions of the water resource of the region. We suggest that small precipitation events are ecologically significant and a qualitatively distinct resource for ecosystems in semiarid regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-304
Number of pages4
JournalOecologia
Volume53
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1982
Externally publishedYes

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Bouteloua gracilis
semiarid region
rain
rainfall
leaf conductance
leaf water potential
steppes
water vapor
water resources
grasses
ecosystems
steppe
persistence
water resource
grass
ecosystem
resource
water
effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

Small rainfall events : An ecological role in semiarid regions. / Sala, Osvaldo; Lauenroth, W. K.

In: Oecologia, Vol. 53, No. 3, 06.1982, p. 301-304.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sala, Osvaldo ; Lauenroth, W. K. / Small rainfall events : An ecological role in semiarid regions. In: Oecologia. 1982 ; Vol. 53, No. 3. pp. 301-304.
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