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Responses of transpiration (Ec) to rain pulses are presented for two semiarid tree species in a stand of Pinus tabulaeformis and Robinia pseudoacacia. Our objectives are to investigate (1) the environmental control over the stand transpiration after rainfall by analyzing the effect of vapor pressure deficit (VPD), soil water condition, and rainfall on the post-rainfall Ec development and recovery rate, and (2) the species responses to rain pulses and implications on vegetation coverage under a changing rainfall regime. Results showed that the sensitivity of canopy conductance (Gc) to VPD varied under different incident radiation and soil water conditions, and the two species exhibited the same hydraulic control (-dG c/dlnVPD to Gcref ratio) over transpiration. Strengthened physiological control and low sapwood area of the stand contributed to low Ec. VPD after rainfall significantly influenced the magnitude and time series of post-rainfall stand Ec. The fluctuation of post-rainfall VPD in comparison with the pre-rainfall influenced the Ec recovery. Further, the stand Ec was significantly related to monthly rainfall, but the recovery was independent of the rainfall event size. Ec enhanced with cumulative soil moisture change (ΔVWC) within each dry-wet cycle, yet still was limited in large rainfall months. The two species had different response patterns of post-rainfall Ec recovery. Ec recovery of P. tabulaeformis was influenced by the pre- and post-rainfall VPD differences and the duration of rainless interval. R. pseudoacacia showed a larger immediate post-rainfall Ec increase than P. tabulaeformis did. We, therefore, concluded that concentrated rainfall events do not trigger significant increase of transpiration unless large events penetrate the deep soil and the species differences of Ec in response to pulses of rain may shape the composition of semiarid woodlands under future rainfall regimes.
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