Highlight Seminar Series: Amilcare Porporato, Duke University

Date: November 10, 2014
Location: Computer Science, Room 104
Time: 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Professor Amilcare Porporato, of Duke University, presents “On the Active Role of Plants on Land-Atmosphere Processes” as part of the 2014-2015 Highlight Seminar Series.

Amilcare Porporato PhotoABSTRACT
Plants in many ways engineer their environment to maximize water, carbon and nutrient use for their growth and reproduction. This in turn exerts strong feedbacks on land-atmosphere processes at different space and time scales. The resulting coupled nonlinear dynamics of biotic and abiotic processes in ecohydrological systems give rise to complex systems with several nonlinearities and feedbacks, whose understanding is necessary for a sustainable use soil and water resources.

With this premise in mind, our presentation emphasizes three examples of plant impacts on hydrologic and biogeochemical cycling in both natural and managed ecosystems. I) The first application regards and the feedbacks between plant and soil biogeochemistry, which are essential to understand the role of plants in favoring soil formation and stability to provide quantitative answers for sustainable management of agricultural ecosystems. II) In our second application we discuss some recent developments in modeling the coupling between photosynthesis and the environment (especially CAM plants) as a necessary step to quantify potential contributions to sustainable agricultural and biofuel production in drylands and marginal lands where C3 and C4 crops are less sustainable. III) Finally, using simple mixed-layer models of atmospheric boundary layer dynamics we illustrate the potential impacts of soil and plant processes on convective precipitation.

Amilcare Porporato earned a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering (summa cum laude) in 1992 and his Ph.D. in 1996 from Polytechnic of Turin. He was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Hydraulics of the Polytechnic of Turin, and he moved to Duke University in 2003, where he is now Full Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a secondary appointment with the Nicholas School of the Environment.

In June 1996, Porporato received the Arturo Parisatti International Price, awarded by the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti. He was Research Associate at the Texas A&M University (USA) in 1998 and Visiting Scholar at Princeton University (USA), Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, from 1999 to 2001. In 2008-2009 he was the first Landolt & Cie Visiting Chair in “Innovative Strategies for a sustainable Future” at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. He was awarded the 2007 Professor Senol Utku’ award, the 2010 Earl Brown II Outstanding Civil Engineering Faculty Award, and in 2011 he received a Lagrange fellowship from the Polytechnic of Turin, the CRT bank and the ISI (Institute for Scientific Interchange). In 2012 he was elected an AGU fellow.

His main research interests regard nonlinear and stochastic dynamical systems, hydrometeorology and soil-atmosphere interaction, soil moisture and plant dynamics, soil biogeochemistry, and ecohydrology.

Porporato has been Editor of Water Resources Research (AGU) (2004-2009), and he is currently editor for Hydrological Processes. He is also member of the editorial board of Advances in Water Resources and the Hydrologic Science Journal. Among other things, he was chairman and convener of the Ecohydrology sessions of the AGU Spring Meeting in 2001 and 2002 and of the EGU in 2004-2006. Porporato has been part of the Italian research groups of Turbulence and Vorticity and of Climate, Soil and Vegetation Interaction, an adviser for real-time forecasting in the Piedmont Region (Italy), and ecohydrology (US National Academy).

Porporato’s didactic experience comprises courses in Environmental Fluid Mechanics, Hydraulics, Hydraulic Constructions, Statistical and Physical Hydrology, Ecohydrology, Nonlinear Dynamics and Stochastic Processes. He has also been the didactic coordinator for the International School “Hydroaid: Water for Development”, co-organized by the Polytechnic of Turin and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Porporato is author of more than 140 peer-reviewed papers, several publications presented at national and international conferences and invited talks. He is also co-author of the book “Ecohydrology of water controlled ecosystems” (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004) and the edited the book “Dryland Ecohydrology” (Springer, 2005).