Effect of Brush Vegetation on Deep Drainage Using Chloride Mass Balance
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Groundwater use is of fundamental importance to meet rapidly expanding urban, industrial, and agricultural water requirements, particularly in semiarid zones. To quantify the current rate of groundwater recharge is thus a prerequisite for efficient and sustainable groundwater resource management in these dry areas, where such resources are often the key to economic development. Increased groundwater recharge has been documented where native vegetation or forest/shrub land was converted to grassland or pasture, or where the land was cleared for agricultural purposes. The basic argument for increased recharge is that evapotranspiration, primarily interception and transpiration, is higher in shrublands than grasslands. Chloride mass balance (CMB) has been used to estimate ancient recharge, but recharge from recent land-use change has also been documented, specifically where vegetation has been altered and deep-rooted species replaced with shallow-rooted grasses. Chloride concentrations are inversely related to recharge rates: low Clconcentrations indicate high recharge rates as Cl- is leached from the system; high Cl concentrations indicate low recharge rates since Cl- accumulates as a result of evapotranspiration. The objectives were (1) to assess the hypothesis that removal of woody-shrub vegetation and replacement with grasses increases deep drainage, (2) to quantify the amount of deep drainage after land-use change, and (3) to provide science-based data for a better understanding of changing land-use impacts on deep drainage. Eight soils from five locations in the Central Rolling Red Plains near Abilene and Sweetwater were sampled. Each location consisted of a pair of similar soils with contrasting vegetative cover: shrubland and grassland. At each site three to five soil cores were taken as deep as possible and samples were taken by horizon, but horizons were split when their thickness exceeded 0.25 m. Soil Cl- profiles under shrubland at three sites showed that virtually no water escapes beyond the root zone. High Cl- concentrations and inventories reflect soil moisture fluxes that approached 0 mm yr-1 with depth. Evapotranspiration may be largely responsible for Cl- enrichment in those profiles. Surprisingly, soil moisture flux past 200 cm under juniper woodlands was the highest with 2.6 mm yr-1. Evapotranspirative Cl- enrichment in the upper 300 cm was not observed and may suggest a different water uptake mechanism for this plant community. Soil Cl- profiles showed increased recharge rates under grassland vegetation ecosystem. Estimated deep drainage past 200 cm of 0.1 to 1.3 mm yr-1 was observed. Low Cl- concentrations and inventories suggest a leaching environment that may be in response to changes in land use/land cover.
Subjectland use/land cover
chloride mass balance
Navarrete Ganchozo, Ronald J. (2009). Effect of Brush Vegetation on Deep Drainage Using Chloride Mass Balance. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from