Effects of Woody Vegetation Removal on Soil Water Dynamics in a South Texas Shrubland
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Ecosystem changes from grassland to shrubland in the Rio Grande Plains are thought to have negative effects on the hydrology of the region. The increase in woody plants, known as woody encroachment, may alter the amount of water moving beyond the root zone of plants. Water moving beyond the root zone is referred to as deep drainage, and has potential to become aquifer recharge. A vegetation manipulation project was designed to understand the effects of woody vegetation removal on soil water dynamics in the recharge zone of the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer of south Texas. The primary objective of the project was to determine the potential to increase groundwater recharge through woody vegetation removal. To understand the effects of vegetation removal on various soil textures we studied changes in soil water, rooting depth, and the role of water redistribution by woody vegetation. Woody vegetation was removed using common methods of cut-stump and roller chop across three soil types. Soil water contents and changes were measured using neutron moisture meter to a depth of 180 cm. Average rooting depth was determined across three soil types. Soil and stem water stable isotopes were used to understand soil water movement. Rooting depth was determined to between 140 and 160 cm for all soil textures. Soil water content and changes were analyzed at three depth increments: 0-60, 60-120 and 120-180 cm. ANOVA analysis showed that there was no treatment response in average soil profile water in the sandy or sandy loam soils. There was a significant decrease in soil profile water for clay loam soil in response to roller chopping. Changes in soil profile water were the greatest in the sandy roller chopped soils. Below 120 cm, three months had significant differences in change in soil water in the sandy roller chop plot. During dry conditions, Honey mesquite shifts water use to deeper in the soil profile. In clay loam soils under dry conditions there is evidence of water being moved up from below 2 m soil depth to drier shallow soils. Roller chopping in sandy soils is the vegetation removal treatment and soil type most likely to result in water moving beyond the root zone. Although treatments had significant effects on soil moisture dynamics that interacted with soil type, we did not find support for deep drainage effects over the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer from woody vegetation removal.
Mattox, April Marie (2013). Effects of Woody Vegetation Removal on Soil Water Dynamics in a South Texas Shrubland. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from https : / /hdl .handle .net /1969 .1 /151167.