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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » SWRC » Research » Research Project #444779

Research Project: Impacts of Disturbances, Management Practices, and Climate on Ecohydrology of Water-Limited Lands

Location: Southwest Watershed Research Center

Project Number: 2022-13610-013-025-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 31, 2023
End Date: Aug 30, 2024

Water-limited lands throughout the western US are changing due to invasive species, intensive land use, increased wildfire activity, and climate change. Land managers, policymakers, and scientists are in need of critical knowledge advances to predict the impacts of these changes on ecosystem structure and function. The objective of this cooperative research project is to assess the ecohydrologic impacts of plant community transitions, disturbances, management practices, and climate on water-limited landscapes in the western US. The project involves field measurement of vegetation, ground cover, soil properties, and infiltration, runoff, and erosion at fine, coarse, and hillslope spatial scales and modeling of hydrology and erosion processes across spatial scales. Results from field experiments will contribute scientific understanding on ramifications of vegetation transitions, disturbances, conservation practices, and climate on plant community dynamics, surface soils, and hillslope hydrologic function and erosion risk. Data from field experiments will also contribute to advances in predictive technologies to assess hydrology and erosion risk associated with ongoing ecological changes on western landscapes.

A suite of standardized vegetation, ground cover, and soil physical property measures will be paired with rainfall simulation and/or infiltrometer experimental data to quantify the impacts of various changes in vegetation structure, ground surface conditions, and soils on hydrologic function and erosion risk. The respective data will come from existing databases and from new field studies and will be used in context with hydrology and erosion modeling to assess and predict hillslope scale hydrologic function and erosion risks associated with broadly occurring ecological changes on water-limited lands in the western US. The resulting information and modeling advances will provide land managers, policymakers, and scientists advanced understanding on ecohydrologic impacts of plant invasions, disturbances such as wildfire, and climate change and the beneficial effects of management practices to mitigate these impacts.