This dataset consists of profiles of soil water potential measured via in situ thermocouple psychrometers located within a rainfall manipulation experiment in a piñon-juniper woodland. The sensors are centrally located within 40 m x 40 m water addition, water removal, infrastructure control, and ambient control plots. The profiles are installed under each of ten target piñon and juniper trees (five of each species) which were also used for other physiological measurements, as well as at five intercanopy areas. The raw sensor output (in μV) has been temperature-corrected and individual calibration equations applied.
Background: This sensor array is part of a larger experiment investigating the mechanisms of drought-related mortality in the piñon-juniper woodland. Briefly, one hypothesis is that, during periods of extended, very-negative, soil water potential (“drought”) trees experience xylem tensions greater than their threshold for cavitation, lose their hydraulic connection to the soil, dessicate and die. A second hypothesis is that in order to avoid this hydraulic failure, trees restrict water loss via reduction in stomatal conductance which also limits the diffusion of CO2 for photosynthesis, and eventually may starve to death depending on the drought duration.
The goal of the project is to apply drought stress on an area significantly larger than the scale of individual trees to determine whether hydraulic failure or carbon starvation is a more likely mechanism for mortality under drought conditions. The cover control treatment replicates the microenvironment created under the plastic rainfall removal troughs (slightly elevated soil and air temperatures and relative humidity) without removing ambient precipitation. The water addition treatment is intended to simulate 150% of the 30-yr average rainfall via n = 6 19-mm super-canopy applications during the growing season (April-October). More details on the experiment can be found in Pangle et al. 2012 Ecosphere 3(4) 28 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/ES11-00369.1). These three treatments, in addition to an ambient control with no infrastructure, are applied to three replicated blocks, one on relatively level terrain, one on a southeast-facing slope, and one on a north-facing slope. The soil psychrometers were installed in the southeast-facing block only, to measure the effectiveness of the treatments on plant-available soil moisture.
For the purposes of comparing soil water potential under various cover types (piñon, juniper, intercanopy), it should be noted that significant tree mortality has occurred on Plot 10. As described below, on 5 August 2008 the site was struck by lightening and many of the soil psychrometers were rendered inoperable. At approximately the same time, four of the five target piñon trees in the southeast-facing drought plot (Plot 10) started browning and it was discovered that they had bark beetle (Ips confusus) galleries and were infected with Ophiostoma fungi. By October 2008 those trees (T1, T2, T4, and T5) had dropped all their needles. Therefore the psychrometers buried under them were no longer located “under trees” after that time. By June 2009 the remaining target piñon (T3) died. By March 2010, one of the target juniper trees (T10) had died. At the time of this writing (April 2011) it is anticipated that more of the juniper trees on P10 will die during this year.
Methods: Within Plots 9-12 of the larger PJ rainfall manipulation experiment, thermocouple psychrometers (Wescor Inc., Logan, UT, USA) were installed. Soil psychrometers profiles were placed under each of the initial ten target trees in each plot, and at the same five intercanopy areas that were instrumented to measure soil and air temperature and soil volumetric water at 5 cm depth. Each profile consisted of sensors at (1) 15 cm; (20) cm; and (3) as deep as could be augered and installed by hand, generally 50-100 cm depth. Sensors were calibrated with four NaCl solutions of known water potential before field deployment.
Sensors are controlled via a Campbell Scientific CR-7 datalogger (Campbell Scientific, Logan, UT, USA). The datalogger takes measurements every 3 h but soil water potential does not change that fast and the daytime measurements are generally unusable because of thermal gradients between the datalogger and the sensors, therefore the data presented here are only the 3:00 AM timepoints.
Note that on 5 August 2008 the site was struck by lightening. Many of the soil psychrometers were destroyed by ground current, with the worst damage on the drought and cover control plots where the metal support posts for the infrastructure may have helped to propagate ground current. Some of those sensors were eventually replaced but in the case of the infrastructure plots we were limited to installing new sensors between the plastic troughs because it was impossible to auger under the plastic. Therefore, while the original installation was random with regard to the pattern of plastic domes and troughs, the replacement installation was exclusively outside the plastic and the data may therefore be biased towards wetter microsites.
Instrument Name: thermocouple psychrometer with stainless steel screen
Manufacturer: Wescor, Inc, Logan, UT, USA
Model Number: PST-55
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