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Slope‐Aspect Induced Climate Differences Influence How Water Is Exchanged Between the Land and Atmosphere


Cross-slope climate differences in the midlatitudes are ecologically important, and impact vegetation-mediated water balance between the earth surface and the atmosphere. We made high-resolution in situ observations of air temperature, relative humidity, soil moisture, insolation, and sap velocity observations on 14 Pacific madrone trees (Arbutus menziesii) spanning adjacent north and south slopes at the University of California's Angelo Coast Range Reserve. To understand the cross-slope response of sap velocity, a proxy for transpiration, to microclimate, we modeled the sap velocity on each slope using a transpiration model driven by ambient environment and parameterized with a Markov Chain Monte Carlo parameter estimation process. The results show that trees on opposing slopes do not follow a shared pattern of physiological response to transpiration drivers. This means that the observed sap velocity differences are not due entirely to observed microclimate differences, but also due to population-level physiological differences, which indicates acclimation to inhabited microclimate. While our present data set and analytical tools do not identify mechanisms of acclimation, we speculate that differing proportions of sun-adapted and shade-adapted leaves, differences in stomatal regulation, and cross-slope root zone moisture differences could explain some of the observed and modeled differences.

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