Plant phenology drives seasonal changes in shear stress partitioning in a semi-arid rangeland

TitlePlant phenology drives seasonal changes in shear stress partitioning in a semi-arid rangeland
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsZiegler, NP, Webb, NP, Gillies, JA, Edwards, BL, Nikolich, G, Van Zee, JW, Cooper, BF, Browning, DM, Courtright, EM, LeGrand, SL
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Start Page109295
Keywordsaerodynamic roughness, Drag partition, Shear stress ratio, Surface shear velocity

Accurate representation of surface roughness in predictive models of aeolian sediment transport and dust emission is required for model accuracy and for models to inform wind erosion management. While past wind tunnel and field studies have examined roughness effects on drag partitioning, the spatial and temporal variability of surface shear velocity and the shear stress ratio remain poorly described. Here, we use a four-month dataset of total shear velocity (u*) and soil surface shear velocity (us*) measurements to examine the spatiotemporal variability of the shear stress ratio (R) before, during, and after vegetation green-up at a honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.) shrub-invaded grassland in the Chihuahuan Desert, New Mexico, USA. Results show that vegetation green-up, the emergence of leaves, led to increased drag and surface aerodynamic sheltering and a reduction in us* and R magnitude and variability. We found that us* decreased from 20% to 5% of u* as the vegetation form drag and its sheltering effect increased. Similarly, the spatiotemporal variability of R was found to be linked directly to plant phenological phases. We conclude that drag partition schemes should incorporate seasonal vegetation change, via dynamic drag coefficients and/or R, to accurately predict the timing and magnitude of seasonal aeolian sediment fluxes. The drag partition response to mesquite phenological phases also provided insight to potential mesquite herbicide treatment effects which, if successful, could increase wind erosivity and the onsite and downwind impacts of wind erosion unless protection by herbaceous plants is maintained.