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Journal Article

Multiple equilibria on planet dune: Climate-vegetation dynamics on a sandy planet


Cresto-Aleina,  Fabio
IMPRS on Earth System Modelling, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;
Climate-Biogeosphere Interaction, The Land in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Cresto-Aleina, F., Baudena, M., D'Andrea, F., & Provenzale, A. (2013). Multiple equilibria on planet dune: Climate-vegetation dynamics on a sandy planet. Tellus, Series B - Chemical and Physical Meteorology, 65: 17662. doi:10.3402/tellusb.v65i0.17662.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-613A-C
We study the interaction between climate and vegetation on an ideal water-limited planet, focussing on the influence of vegetation on the global water cycle. We introduce a simple mechanistic box model consisting in a two-layer representation of the atmosphere and a two-layer soil scheme. The model includes the dynamics of vegetation cover, and the main physical processes of energy and water exchange among the different components. With a realistic choice of parameters, this model displays three stable equilibria, depending on the initial conditions of soil water and vegetation cover. The system reaches a hot and dry state for low values of initial water content and/or vegetation cover, while we observe a wet, vegetated state with mild surface temperature when the system starts from larger initial values of both variables. The third state is a cold desert, where plants transfer enough water to the atmosphere to start a weaker, evaporation-dominated water cycle before they wilt. These results indicate that in this system vegetation plays a central role in transferring water from the soil to the atmosphere and trigger a hydrologic cycle. The model adopted here can also be used to conceptually illustrate processes and feedbacks affecting the water cycle in water-limited continental areas on Earth. © 2013 Fabio Cresto Aleina et al.