Browsing Journal of Range Management, Volume 55, Number 1 (January 2002) by Subjects
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Soil erosion as affected by shrub encroachment in northeastern PatagoniaSoil erosion is the primary cause of irreversible loss of soil productivity on most rangelands. In northeastern Patagonia, the increase in soil erosion has been closely associated with the increase in shrub cover in the grass or shrub-grass steppes. We used rainfall simulation to compare infiltration and sediment production from patches of grass, shrub-grass, and shrub steppes of the Punta Ninfas range site. Bare soil and gravel covers were higher and litter cover was lower in the shrub steppe than in the shrub-grass and the grass steppes. In the shrub inter-spaces of the shrub steppe, bulk density was greater and macroporosity and soil organic matter were lower (P less than or equal to 0.05) than in the mounds beneath shrubs and in the grass and shrub-grass areas. Infiltration rate was 60 to 65% lower in the shrub steppe than in the grass and shrub-grass steppes, respectively. On the contrary, total sediment production and concentration were higher (P less than or equal to 0.05) in the shrub steppe as compared to the grass and the shrub-grass areas. Gravel cover was the variable that best predicted infiltration and sediment production. The organic matter content of the sediment, mostly litter, in the shrub and the shrub-grass steppes were similar and greater (P less than or equal to 0.05) than in the grass steppe. Runoff litter removal may represent one of the processes that drive the transition from shrub-grass to shrub steppes. High rates of sediment removal, mainly litter, from the shrub interspaces of the shrub steppe may limit the natural recovery of the soil physical and hydrological properties. These degraded patches fail to capture incident rainfall and restrict the possibilities for the recovery of perennial grasses favoring the dominance of shrubs.