Effects of maquis clearing on the properties of the soil and on the near-surface hydrological processes in a semi-arid Mediterranean environment
AbstractMany hillslopes covered with maquis in the semi-arid Mediterranean environment have been cleared in recent decades. There is little information on what effect this has on the hydrology of the soil. We compared the hydraulic properties of the soil and the subsurface hydrological dynamics on two adjacent sites on a hillslope. One site was covered with maquis, the other with grass. The grass started to grow some 10 years ago, after the maquis had been cleared and the soil had been ploughed. Our study found that the hydraulic properties and the hydrological dynamics of the maquis and the grassed soil differed greatly. The grassed soil had less organic matter and higher apparent density than did the soil covered in maquis. Moreover, the maquis soil retained more water than the grassed soil in the tension range from saturation to 50 cm of water. Infiltration tests performed in summer and in winter indicated that the field saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kfs) of the maquis soil was higher than that of the grassy soil. However the data showed that the Kfs of the two soils changed with the season. In the maquis soil the Kfs increased from summer to winter. This was assumed to be due to water flowing more efficiently through wet soil. By contrast, in the grassy soil the Kfs decreased from summer to winter. This was because the desiccation cracks closed in the wet soil. As result, the influence of the land use change was clear from the Kfs measurements in winter, but less so from those in the summer. Changes in land use altered the dynamics of the infiltration, subsurface drainage and soil water storage of the soil. The maquis soil profile never saturated completely, and only short-lived, event based perched water tables were observed. By contrast, soil saturation and a shallow water table were observed in the grass covered site throughout the wet season. The differences were assumed to be due to the high canopy interception of the maquis cover, and to the macropores in the grassed soil being destroyed after the maquis had been cleared and the soil ploughed. The results of this work are helpful for predicting the changes in the hydraulic properties of the soil and in the near-surface hydrological processes in similar Mediterranean environments where the natural vegetation has been cleared. These changes must be taken into consideration when developing rainfall-runoff models for flood forecasting and water yield evaluation.
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Copyright (c) 2014 Mario Pirastru, Marcello Niedda, Mirko Castellini
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