The University of Arizona

Shrub control and streamflow on rangelands: a process based viewpoint.

B.P. Wilcox


In this paper, the linkage between streamflow and shrub cover on rangelands is examined, with a focus on the extensive Texas rangelands dominated by mesquite and juniper. The conclusions drawn are consistent with results from field studies and with our understanding of runoff processes from rangelands. Whether and how shrub control will affect streamflow depends on shrub characteristics, precipitation, soils, and geology. Precipitation is perhaps the most fundamental of these factors: there is little if any real potential for increasing streamflow where annual precipitation is below about 500 mm. For areas in which precipitation is sufficient, a crucial indicator that there is potential for increasing streamflow through shrub control is the presence of springs or groundwater flow to streams. These conditions often occur at locations where soils are shallow and underlain by fractured parent material. Under such conditions, reducing shrub cover may increase streamflows because water that would otherwise be lost through interception by the canopy instead moves into the soil and quickly travels beyond the root zone. If, on the other hand, there is no obvious subsurface connection between the hillslope and the stream channel and when runoff occurs it occurs as overland flow, shrub control will have little if any influence on streamflow. In assessing the potential for shrub control to increase streamflow, the runoff generation process should be explicitly identified. An improved understanding of the linkages between shrubs and streamflow on rangelands will require additional research on (1) hillslope hydrologic processes and how these are altered by shrub cover (2) groundwater-surface water interactions and (3) hydrologic scale relationships from the patch to the hillslope to the landscape levels.



semiarid soils;stream flow;subsurface flow;groundwater flow;water yield;Prosopis;evapotranspiration;watersheds;brush control;watershed hydrology;runoff;precipitation;Texas;range management;Juniperus

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