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Research Project: Understanding Water-Driven Ecohydrologic and Erosion Processes in the Semiarid Southwest to Improve Watershed Management

Location: Southwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Introduction to the Special Issue “Ecohydrologic Feedbacks Between Vegetation, Soil, and Climate”

Author
item Williams, Christopher - Jason
item Nouwakpo, Sayjro

Submitted to: Water
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/23/2022
Publication Date: 2/28/2022
Citation: Williams, C.J., Nouwakpo, S.K. 2022. Introduction to the Special Issue “Ecohydrologic Feedbacks Between Vegetation, Soil, and Climate”. Water. 14(5):760. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14050760.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/w14050760

Interpretive Summary: Disturbances and perturbations on water-limited landscapes can amplify runoff and soil erosion rates and propagate degradation through losses of site resources. Common examples include woody plant encroachment, drought, desertification, over-grazing, deforestation, and recurring wildfire. Researchers and land managers around the world seek science-based guidance, tools, and best management practices to addresses these problems. A special issue of the international journal Water was organized to convey recent advances in knowledge and approaches to address ecohydrologic impacts of disturbances and perturbations on water-limited lands. This report provides a synopsis of the papers from the special issue, highlighting respective knowledge and model advances applicable to management of drylands around world.

Technical Abstract: Vegetation transitions on arid and semi-arid landscapes present unique opportunities for examining structural and functional (pattern and process) ecohydrologic feedbacks that regulate site ecological resilience. Runoff and soil loss on well-vegetated sites are commonly low due to complex spatial patterning of hydrologic and erosion sources and sinks. Infiltration, soil water recharge, and nutrient retention on these landscapes enhance vegetation productivity, ground cover recruitment, soil quality, and overall ecological resilience. Disturbances or perturbations that coarsen the plant community structure commonly amplify runoff and soil erosion rates and, when respective conditions are sustained, can propagate long-term soil loss and site degradation. Common examples include woody plant encroachment, drought, desertification, over-grazing, deforestation, and frequently recurring wildfire. This Special Issue explores aspects of these dynamic relationships and advances in associated predictive technologies and tools from a suite of studies spanning the USA, Israel, Germany, and China. Here, we provide a brief summary of the Special Issue papers, organized into three topic areas: (1) vegetation, soils, and hydrology and erosion feedbacks, (2) land cover change and subsurface flow process interactions, and (3) advances in erosion prediction and soil water content measurement. Although these papers are a small sample, they provide unique and interesting insight into complex ecohydrologic relationships that commonly occur around the World.