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Afforestation of degraded grasslands reduces sediment transport and may contribute to streamflow regulation in small catchments in the short-run

Abstract : Land use change in the Southern Grasslands biome with the introduction of exotic, fast-growing forest species is a controversial topic, because of the potential effect on water and soil resources. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of afforesting degraded grassland on streamflow and sedimentation in subtropical headwater catchments. Two small, headwater catchments were studied, one planted with Eucalyptus saligna (EC: 0.83 km2) and another with grasslands and extensive livestock (GC: 1.10 km2). Rainfall, runoff, and sediment discharge were monitored from September 2013 to March 2017. The results show two-fold greater surface runoff and sediment yield occurred in GC than in EC. Maximum and mean runoff coefficients were, respectively, 45.5 and 10.2% in GC, and 12.4 and 2.2% in EC; suspended sediment yield was, respectively, 67.9 and 22.4 Mg km−2 in GC and EC; and bed load sediment yield was only 0.053 and 0.006 Mg km−2. El Niño year with high rainfall produced the greatest annual sediment yield, with values 4.2 times greater in GC (167.7 Mg km−2) than in EC (39.9 Mg km−2). Hydrographs/sedimentographs synchronization and hysteresis patterns suggest faster sediment delivery in GC than in EC, but further studies are needed to conciliate sediment sources results with sediment fingerprinting. Staggered forest harvest (21% of the planted eucalyptus) led to sediment yield comparable to the observed during the pre-harvest period, and lower than in grassland catchment. In conclusion, well‐managed forest plantations, including staggered forest harvesting and preservation of riparian forest, are less prone to sedimentation than degraded grassland under intensive grazing. Well-managed afforestation of degraded lands contributes to soil conservation in the studied region, whereas low ecological performance of degraded grassland calls for soil and pasture management practices to increase forage offer to grazing animals, while conserving soil and water resources in the catchments.
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https://hal-cea.archives-ouvertes.fr/cea-03215180
Contributor : Olivier Evrard <>
Submitted on : Monday, May 3, 2021 - 11:03:15 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, May 6, 2021 - 10:52:31 AM

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Mirian Lago Valente, José Miguel Reichert, Rosane Barbosa Lopes Cavalcante, Jean Paolo Gomes Minella, Olivier Evrard, et al.. Afforestation of degraded grasslands reduces sediment transport and may contribute to streamflow regulation in small catchments in the short-run. CATENA, Elsevier, 2021, 204, pp.105371. ⟨10.1016/j.catena.2021.105371⟩. ⟨cea-03215180⟩

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