Climate models predict that water limited regions around the world will become drier and warmer in the near future, including southwestern North America. We developed a large-scale experimental system that allows testing of the ecosystem impacts of precipitation changes. Four treatments were applied to 1600 m2 plots (40 m × 40 m), each with three replicates in a piñon pine (Pinus edulis) and juniper (Juniper monosperma) ecosystem. These species have extensive root systems, requiring large-scale manipulation to effectively alter soil water availability. Treatments consisted of: 1) irrigation plots that receive supplemental water additions, 2) drought plots that receive 55% of ambient rainfall, 3) cover-control plots that receive ambient precipitation, but allow determination of treatment infrastructure artifacts, and 4) ambient control plots. Our drought structures effectively reduced soil water potential and volumetric water content compared to the ambient, cover-control, and water addition plots. Drought and cover control plots experienced an average increase in maximum soil and air temperature at ground level of 1-4° C during the growing season compared to ambient plots, and concurrent short-term diurnal increases in maximum air temperature were also observed directly above and below plastic structures. Our drought and irrigation treatments significantly influenced tree predawn water potential, sap-flow, and net photosynthesis, with drought treatment trees exhibiting significant decreases in physiological function compared to ambient and irrigated trees.  Supplemental irrigation resulted in a significant increase in both plant water potential and xylem sap-flow compared to trees in the other treatments. This experimental design effectively allows manipulation of plant water stress at the ecosystem scale, permits a wide range of drought conditions, and provides prolonged drought conditions comparable to historical droughts in the past – drought events for which wide-spread mortality in both these species was observed. Water potential measurements were used to monitor the water stress of the two target species across the four treatment regimes. Sampling for water potentials occurred twice daily. One set of samples was collected hours before dawn and another set was collected at mid-day. The predawn readings provided the "least-stressed" tree water content values as they were collected after the trees had returned to equilibrium over the evening and had yet to start transpiring. The mid-day values, collected after tree-level respiration had been occurring for hours and when the daily temperatures were highest, represented the opposite "most-stressed" scenario. To gauge the effect of the irrigation treatment on the water content of the trees, we sampled water potentials just before and just after irrigation events.


Other Identifier


Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (KNB) Identifier


Document Type



This dataset was originally published on the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network Data Portal,, and potentially via other repositories or portals as described. The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) of the source data package is doi:10.6073/pasta/4c7b3696c3101375fbde251622748738, and may be accessed at Metadata and files included in this record mirror as closely as possible the source data and documentation, with the provenance metadata and quality report generated by the LTER portal reproduced here as '*-provenance.xml' and *-report.html' files, respectively.


Data Policies: This dataset is released to the public and may be freely downloaded. Please keep the designated Contact person informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation or collaboration with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset must include proper acknowledgement of the Sevilleta LTER. Datasets must be cited as in the example provided. A copy of any publications using these data must be supplied to the Sevilleta LTER Information Manager. By downloading any data you implicitly acknowledge the LTER Data Policy (


Temporal coverage

2006-01-01 - 2013-12-31

Spatial coverage

Site situated on the eastern flank of Los Pinos Mountains, approx. 3 miles south of NM state route 60, directly adjacent to the eastern boundary of the Sevilleta USFWS National Refuge.



Permanent URL

knb-lter-sev.275.312616-metadata.html (122 kB)
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knb-lter-sev.275.312616-provenance.xml (5 kB)
Show provenance metadata

knb-lter-sev.275.312616-report.html (27 kB)
Show original LTER Network Data Portal ingest report

sev275_pjwaterpot_20160328.txt (3028 kB)
Data in TXT format


Article Location