Vegetation provides a critical pathway for water transport from the land surface to the atmosphere; yet, the ability of vegetation to actively modulate water uptake and release makes this a challenging process for land-atmosphere models to capture. Recently, a number of physical process models of water flow through vegetation have come to the fore. These models draw a parallel between vegetation’s conductive tissues and porous media. The FETCH2 scalable vegetation model uses a simplified form of the Richards equation to simulate water movement within trees while allowing for dynamic changes in hydraulic conductance and capacitance. In this manner, FETCH2 can capture divergent hydrodynamic behaviors among species in the same ecosystem in manners that standard land-atmosphere models cannot. FETCH2 and other mechanistic vegetation models stand to promote significant improvements to our ability to model transpiration at local to global scales. In particular, this new class of plant hydraulics models stands to revolutionize the way models capture the effects o f drought, land use and land cover change, and climate change on the hydrologic and carbon cycles as well as on vegetation demography.
Dr Matheny completed her PhD in hydrology in the Civil Engineering Department at Ohio State University in 2016. She post-doc’ed for a year in the same department before becoming an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Geological Sciences. Dr Matheny’s research efforts center on the ecohydrology of forested systems and the use of novel measurement and modeling techniques to improve the simulation of water and carbon flux in these systems.