Assessing the Ecohydrologic Consequences of Woody Plant Encroachment
Committee ChairGuertin, Phillip
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis three part study attempted to enhance our understanding of vegetation change and its potential effects on ecohydrology in drylands. The first study developed a method to measure the velocity of shallow overland flow. Under rainfall simulation, dye tracers were applied to runoff and photographed to calculate mean surface velocity. Results showed this approach was a significant improvement explaining 13% more of the variation in mean velocity compared to traditional methods. Results from the first study were used to compare hydraulic parameters on shrub- and grass-dominated plots in the second study. Previous research has suggested microtopography in shrublands acts to concentrate flow, leading to increased runoff velocity compared to grasslands. However, present findings showed that flow velocities were similar on many grass and shrub plots; only plots with ground cover > 90% exhibited significantly lower flow velocities, and some shrub-dominated plots had lower flow velocities than grass-dominated plots implying that horizontal water flux is reduced under certain states of woody plant encroachment. In terms of ground cover characteristics, velocity increased rapidly with increases in the fraction of bare soil, up to a value of ~20% bare soil. Above ~20% bare soil, basal gap became a dominant factor suggesting a possible threshold where spatial metrics related to the distance between plants become important indicator of shallow flow velocity. The third study tested an approach to quantify woody plant canopy metrics over large areas. Radar has been used to map biomass in forests but few studies have examined open canopy ecosystems. Field measurements of shrublands were compared to satellite images to identify the relationship between radar signal and height and cover of woody vegetation. Results indicated that radar signal increased positively with shrub height or shrub volume explaining 74% and 90% of the variation, respectively. The effect of surface roughness and sub-canopy species on radar signal appears reduced when images are collected at large incidence angles.
Degree ProgramNatural Resources