The hydrologic consequences of land cover change in central Argentina

  • Nosetto M
  • Jobbagy E
  • Brizuela A
 et al. 
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Abstract

Vegetation exerts a strong control on water balance and key hydrological
variables like evapotranspiration, water yield or even the flooded area
may result severely affected by vegetation changes. Particularly,
transitions between tree- and herbaceous-dominated covers, which are
taking place at increasing rates in South America, may have the greatest
impact on the water balance. Based on Landsat imagery analysis, soil
sampling and hydrological modeling, we evaluated vapor and liquid
ecosystem water fluxes and soil moisture changes in temperate Argentina
and provided a useful framework to assess potential hydrological impacts
of vegetation cover changes. Two types of native vegetation (grasslands
and forests) and three modified covers (eucalyptus plantations, single
soybean crop and wheat/soybean rotation) were considered in the
analysis. Despite contrasting structural differences, native forests and
eucalyptus plantations displayed evapotranspiration values remarkably
similar (similar to 1100 mm y(-1)) and significantly higher than
herbaceous vegetation covers (similar to 780, similar to 670 and similar
to 800 mm y(-1) for grasslands, soybean and wheat/soybean (Triticum
aestivum L. Glycine max L) system, respectively. In agreement with
evapotranspiration estimates, soil profiles to a depth of 3m were
significantly drier in woody covers (0.31 m(3) m(-3)) compared to native
grasslands (0.39 m(3) m(-3)), soybean (0.38 m(3) m(-3)) and
wheat/soybean rotation (0.35 m(3) m(-3)). Liquid water fluxes (deep
drainage + surface runoff) were at least doubled in herbaceous covers,
as suggested by modeling (similar to 170 mm y(-1) and similar to 357 mm
y(-1), for woody and herbaceous covers, respectively). Our analysis
revealed the hydrological outcomes of different vegetation changes
trajectories and provided valuable tools that will help to anticipate
likely impacts, minimize uncertainties and provide a solid base for
Sustainable land use planning. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights
reserved.

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Authors

  • M D Nosetto

  • E G Jobbagy

  • A B Brizuela

  • R B Jackson

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