Submitted to: Catena
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/9/2009
Publication Date: 1/19/2010
Citation: Vasquez-Mendez, R., Ventura-Ramos, E., Oleschko, K., Hernandez-Sandoval, L., Parrot, J., Nearing, M.A. 2010. Soil erosion and runoff in different vegetation patches from semiarid Central Mexico. Catena. 80: 162–169. Interpretive Summary: Runoff and erosion rates from rangelands are important quantitative indicators for rangeland health and for understanding how to better apply conservation practices. Government agencies, rangeland managers, conservationists and rangeland scientists are in need of better information and data on the amount of runoff and erosion that occurs under different vegetation types in arid and semi-arid environments. In this study we measured runoff and erosion on plots with different types of vegetation in central Mexico. We found that soil surface physical conditions were different between low vegetation cover conditions and greater vegetation cover conditions, indicating a positive effect of vegetation on the regulation of surface hydrological processes. This new information will enable improved knowledge of hydrology and erosion by water on rangelands across Mexico as well as the southwestern United States, which will lead to an improved ability to manage this extensive and sometimes fragile natural resource.
Technical Abstract: Vegetation patches in arid and semiarid areas are important in the regulation of surface hydrological processes. Canopy and ground cover in these fertility islands develop a natural cushion against the impact energy of rainfall, and the higher levels of organic matter improve soil physicochemical properties. Hence, infiltration capacity and soil properties tend to better and runoff and soil erosion less under the patches than in the open spaces between them. Four USLE-type plots were installed around vegetation patches with a predominant individual species of Huisache (Acacia sp), Mesquite (Prosopis sp), Prickly Pear or Nopal (Opuntia sp) and Cardon (Opuntia imbricate) to evaluate soil erosion and runoff during the 2006 rainy season in semiarid central Mexico. A comparative bare surface condition was studied as a control. Vegetative canopy cover and plant diameter were computed using digital images, and selected soil parameters were determined. Soil erosion was different for the studied vegetation conditions, and decreased linearly with canopy and ground cover. There were not significant differences in runoff and soil erosion between the control and Opuntia imbricata surfaces. Runoff was 87%, 87% and 98% less and soil loss 97%, 93%, and 99% less for Acacia farnesiana, Prosopis laevigata and Opuntia sp, respectively, as compared to the control. Soil surface physical conditions were different between the low vegetation cover conditions (control and Opuntia imbricata surfaces) and the greater vegetation cover conditions (Acacia farnesiana, Prosopis laevigata and Opuntia sp), indicating a positive effect of vegetation patches on the regulation of surface hydrological processes.