Changes in ecosystem structure, function and hydrological connectivity control water, soil and carbon losses in semi-arid grass to woody vegetation transitions

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Puttock, A., Macleod, C. J. A., Bol, R., Sessford, P., Dungait, J. A. J. and Brazier, R. E. 2013. Changes in ecosystem structure, function and hydrological connectivity control water, soil and carbon losses in semi-arid grass to woody vegetation transitions. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 38 (13), pp. 1602-1611.

AuthorsPuttock, A., Macleod, C. J. A., Bol, R., Sessford, P., Dungait, J. A. J. and Brazier, R. E.
Abstract

Connectivity has recently emerged as a key concept for understanding hydrological response to vegetation change in semi-arid environments, providing an explanatory link between abiotic and biotic, structure and function. Reduced vegetation cover following woody encroachment, generally promotes longer, more connected overland flow pathways, which has the potential to result in an accentuated rainfall-runoff response and fluxes of both soil erosion and carbon. This paper investigates changing hydrological connectivity as an emergent property of changing ecosystem structure over two contrasting semi-arid grass to woody vegetation transitions in New Mexico, USA. Vegetation structure is quantified to evaluate if it can be used to explain observed variations in water, sediment and carbon fluxes. Hydrological connectivity is quantified using a flow length metric, combining topographic and vegetation cover data. Results demonstrate that the two woody-dominated sites have significantly longer mean flowpath lengths (4 center dot 3m), than the grass-dominated sites (2 center dot 4m). Mean flowpath lengths illustrate a significant positive relationship with the functional response. The woody-dominated sites lost more water, soil and carbon than their grassland counterparts. Woody sites erode more, with mean event-based sediment yields of 1203g, compared to 295g from grasslands. In addition, the woody sites lost more organic carbon, with mean event yields of 39g compared to 5g from grassland sites. Finally, hydrological connectivity (expressed as mean flowpath length) is discussed as a meaningful measure of the interaction between structure and function and how this manifests under the extreme rainfall that occurs in semi-arid deserts. In combination with rainfall characteristics, connectivity emerges as a useful tool to explain the impact of vegetation change on water, soil and carbon losses across semi-arid environments. Copyright (c) 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

KeywordsGeography; Geosciences
Year of Publication2013
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Journal citation38 (13), pp. 1602-1611
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1002/esp.3455
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderUniversity of Exeter and Rothamsted Research at North Wyke
NSF
British Society
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeCropping Carbon (CC) [ISPG]
Output statusPublished
ISSN01979337
PublisherWiley
Copyright licenseCC BY

Permalink - https://repository.rothamsted.ac.uk/item/8qx28/changes-in-ecosystem-structure-function-and-hydrological-connectivity-control-water-soil-and-carbon-losses-in-semi-arid-grass-to-woody-vegetation-transitions

Restricted files

Publisher's version

Under embargo indefinitely

7 total views
1 total downloads
1 views this month
0 downloads this month