Effects of the Arundo donax L. on Hydrological Regime of the Rio Grande Basin
This study investigated the role of an invasive tall cane, Arundo donax L. (Arundo), in the riparian water cycle. Four 100 meter transects were arrayed perpendicular to the lower Rio Grande in southwest Texas. The first objective was to determine the primary water source for Arundo by using naturally occurring stable isotopes. Surface soil, river water, groundwater, precipitation and rhizome samples were collected every month during 2010 and 2011 growing seasons, which coincided with a major flood that saturated soils in the first year followed by extreme drought in the second year. The second objective was to characterize how Arundo water use varied with water availability gradients in the riparian zone. Leaf gas exchange and leaf delta13C were measured along potential moisture gradients. The third objective was to understand the interaction between groundwater and surface water, and whether Arundo water use affected daily groundwater fluctuations. The isotope ratio of rhizome water was consistent with shallow soil moisture uptake and with previous observations of a relatively shallow, fibrous root system. Floodwater from July 2010 persisted in the soil for at least a year despite a severe drought, and became the dominant water source for Arundo during much of the study period. Although the alluvial water table in this floodplain was shallow (< 6 m) and subject to changes in river level, groundwater seemed not to be an important source for Arundo, so long as the soil moisture was sufficient. In this study, Arundo was not found to experience soil moisture limitation, and the spatial variability of Arundo transpiration was not associated with any soil moisture availability gradients. Arundo was found to close its stomata in response to increasing vapor pressure deficit (VPD), causing declining transpiration rate and increasing leaf delta13C composition. Significant exchange between the river and the alluvial groundwater was reflected in the similarity of isotopic compositions and the high correlation between river and groundwater elevations. Cross correlation analysis showed that over 50% of the diurnal groundwater fluctuations were caused by river stage changes. Consistent with the above ecophysiological and stable isotope results, Arundo water use was not found to influence daily groundwater fluctuations.
Li, Fan (2012). Effects of the Arundo donax L. on Hydrological Regime of the Rio Grande Basin. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from