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ARS Home » Plains Area » Temple, Texas » Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #345412

Research Project: Resilient Management Systems and Decision Support Tools to Optimize Agricultural Production and Watershed Responses from Field to National Scale

Location: Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Title: Water balance in paired watersheds with eucalyptus and degraded grassland in Pampa biome

Author
item Reichert, Jose - Universidade Federal De Santa Maria
item Rodrigues, Miriam - Universidade Federal De Santa Maria
item Pelaez, Jhon - Corpoica
item Lanza, Rosane - Universidade Federal De Santa Maria
item Minella, Jean - Universidade Federal De Santa Maria
item Arnold, Jeffrey
item Cavalcante, Rosane - Cmpc Celulose Riograndense Company

Submitted to: Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/9/2017
Publication Date: 3/1/2017
Citation: Reichert, J.M., Rodrigues, M.F., Pelaez, J.J., Lanza, R., Minella, J.P., Arnold, J.G., Cavalcante, R.B. 2017. Water balance in paired watersheds with eucalyptus and degraded grassland in Pampa biome. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 237-238:282-295. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2017.02.014.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2017.02.014

Interpretive Summary: Rangelands of the Pampa biome cover larger areas of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. Land in the Pampa is being converted to agricultural crops and commercial eucalyptus with little understanding of the ecological and hydrological consequences. Two paired watersheds were monitored for meteorological data (precipitation, temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation) and hydrological data (runoff, infiltration, and evapotranspiration). Land use in one watershed was a 7 year old eucalyptus stand and the other was grassland with native and exotic grasses used for livestock production. Comparison of the water balance in the paired watersheds showed the eucalyptus stands had better ground cover, greater infiltration and water retention, increased groundwater recharge, and reduction in sediment yield.

Technical Abstract: Rangelands of the Pampa biome, which cover regions of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil (176,496 km2 – 2.07% of Brazilian territory and 63% of Rio Grande do Sul State territory, southern region of Brazil) in South America (total area of 750,000 km2), are being substituted by crops and commercial eucalyptus, with potential impacts on ecological and hydrological response of watersheds and river basins. We evaluated the influence of vegetation cover on hydrological processes by describing the water balance and its components (rainfall – P, interception, throughfall, actual evapotranspiration – ETa, groundwater recharge – G, and streamflow – Q) in two paired watersheds. One watershed being cropped to 7-year-old Eucalyptus saligna stands (forest watershed – FW; 0.83 km2) and another consisted of degraded grassland with native and exotic grasslands (grassland watershed – GW; 1.10 km2) used for livestock production in the Rio Grande do Sul State. The study was conducted from October 2012 to September 2014, during two hydrological years: a normal year from October 2012 to September 2013, and a wetter year from October 2013 to September 2014. Pluviometers were installed to study the partition of rain, along with watershed gauges and equipment for monitoring hydrological variables. Meteorological data (maximum and minimum temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation) used to calculate potential evapotranspiration were collected from a tower installed in the FW, whereas hydrological data (P and Q) were collected by sensors installed in each of the watershed spillways. During the normal year, P was 19% above the annual historical average for the region, which is 1314 mm, whereas in wetter year, rainfall was 98% above the same average. Total rainfall interception was similar between years in GW (9 and 10%), but different between years in FW that was higher in wetter (24%) then in normal year (16%). In the normal year, streamflow were 64% lower in the FW compared to the GW, while ETa and G were respectively 37% and 25% greater in the FW compared to the GW. In the wetter year, streamflow was 66% lower in the FW than in the GW, while ETa and G in soil were respectively 27% and 46% greater in the FW compared to the GW. Flow with 5% time streamflow (Q5) was greater in the GW compared to FW in both normal and wetter years. Streamflow in the GW and FW were equal at Q80 and Q82 in the normal and in the wetter years, respectively, and exceedance probability curves crossed over at Q81 and Q82, where the exceedance probability curves become greater in FW than in the GW. Even if the forest watershed had greater ETa compared to the grassland watershed, benefits such as greater interception and lesser surface runoff can be highlighted, for a condition where grassland was degraded and provided low aboveground biomass. Thus, the cultivation of eucalyptus stands may provide better structural conditions and ground cover, greater infiltration and soil water retention, and increased groundwater recharge, with consequent reduction of soil degradation by erosion and increased water availability during dry periods. Long-term use of forest systems, especially when compared to degraded grassland, may provide improvement on soil physical quality. However, these comparative results may not be valid for conditions during harvesting and tillage operations, neither when soil under grasslands has improved physico-hydraulic properties.