Canyonlands Research Bibliography


Long-term impact of agricultural practices on biological soil crusts and their hydrological processes in a semiarid landscape

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Journal of Arid Environments



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The natural landscapes of semiarid areas worldwide comprise a series of scattered patches of shrubs within a matrix of biologically crusted soils (BSC). As BSCs are considered ecosystem engineers the relationships between the BSC and the shrub patches determine system functioning. The objective of our study was to investigate long-term effects of agricultural practices on biological soil crusts and their influence on hydrological aspects of a semiarid ecosystem. During 1991, we experimentally simulated five of the area's agricultural practices; 1) Scraping – the topsoil was removed to a depth of 2 cm, 2) Spraying – phototrophic organisms were chemically killed with herbicide, 3) Mowing – perennial vegetation was cut and spread to simulate grazing practices, 4) Car track – a heavy roller was used to simulate car-tracks, 5) Control – undisturbed natural plots. Sixteen years later, in 2007, these agricultural practices were found to have a long-term effect on the crusted soil surface and the related soil-surface properties. Mowing and car-track treatments led to decreased overland runoff and increased hydraulic conductivity, whereas scraping and spraying treatments led to increased overland runoff production and decreased hydraulic conductivity. We conclude that the practices had a long-term residual impact on BSC succession and related soil surface properties, which affected the hydrological processes and system functioning.


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