Spatial gradients in ecohydrologic properties within a pinyon-juniper ecosystem

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John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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The influence of woody vegetation and biological soil crusts on infiltration capacity is one of the several uncertainties associated with the ecohydrologic effects of woody plant encroachment into arid and semi-arid land systems. The objective of this study was to quantify the effects of Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) and pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) on subcanopy and intercanopy ecohydrologic properties. We measured soil sorptivity, unsaturated hydraulic conductivity [K(h)], soil water content (SWC), and water repellency along radial line transects from under Juniperus and Pinus trees into the centre of the intercanopy space between trees. In the subcanopy, litter mounds, hydrophobic soils, and roots all appear to contribute to preferential flow to below-surface soils via wetted patches. For both Juniperus and Pinus, K(h) was significantly lower in the subcanopy than the intercanopy average; however, line transect measurements did not show distinct boundaries in K(h) between the two regions. K(h) increased by eight-fold across a gradient extending outward from near the edge of the canopy to approximately 2 times the canopy radius (CR). This suggests that the influence of these species on hydrologic properties extends significantly into the intercanopy region. Analysis of biological soil crust cover within the intercanopy showed that beyond the gradient zone, increasing structural development of biological soil crust was associated with increased K(h). Furthermore, these results indicate that the distance from the canopy and direction should be considered in the assessment and modelling of woody plant and biological soil crust influence on infiltration capacity.


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