Articles | Volume 12, issue 1
27 Feb 2008
 | 27 Feb 2008

Ecohydrology in Mediterranean areas: a numerical model to describe growing seasons out of phase with precipitations

D. Pumo, F. Viola, and L. V. Noto

Abstract. The probabilistic description of soil moisture dynamics is a relatively new topic in hydrology. The most common ecohydrological models start from a stochastic differential equation describing the soil water balance, where the unknown quantity, the soil moisture, depends both on spaces and time. Most of the solutions existing in literature are obtained in a probabilistic framework and under steady-state condition; even if this last condition allows the analytical handling of the problem, it has considerably simplified the same problem by subtracting generalities from it.

The steady-state hypothesis, appears perfectly applicable in arid and semiarid climatic areas like those of African's or middle American's savannas, but it seems to be no more valid in areas with Mediterranean climate, where, notoriously, the wet season foregoes the growing season, recharging water into the soil. This moisture stored at the beginning of the growing season (known as soil moisture initial condition) has a great importance, especially for deep-rooted vegetation, by enabling survival in absence of rainfalls during the growing season and, however, keeping the water stress low during the first period of the same season.

The aim of this paper is to analyze the soil moisture dynamics using a simple non-steady numerical ecohydrological model. The numerical model here proposed is able to reproduce soil moisture probability density function, obtained analytically in previous studies for different climates and soils in steady-state conditions; consequently it can be used to compute both the soil moisture time-profile and the vegetation static water stress time-profile in non-steady conditions.

Here the differences between the steady-analytical and the non-steady numerical probability density functions are analyzed, showing how the proposed numerical model is able to capture the effects of winter recharge on the soil moisture. The dynamic water stress is also numerically evaluated, implicitly taking into account the soil moisture condition at the beginning of the growing season. It is also shown the role of different annual climatic parameterizations on the soil moisture probability density function and on the vegetation water stress evaluation.

The proposed model is applied to a case study characteristic of Mediterranean climate: the watershed of Eleuterio in Sicily (Italy).