Effects of different land use on soil hydraulic properties
Van der Kamp, G.
An understanding of hydraulic properties of surface soils is needed for sound soil management because it determines the partition of rainfall and snow melt into runoff or soil water storage. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of three land uses (native grassland, brome grassland and cultivated land) on soil physical properties. For each land use, water infiltration rates were measured with a tension infiltrometer at 3, 7, 15, and 22 cm water tensions. Total porosity and macro porosity were determined and hydraulic properties were estimated. The highest total porosity and macro porosity were observed in native grassland while cultivation had significantly reduced macro porosity. At 15 and 22 cm tensions native grassland had significantly lower infiltration rates than cultivated fields while brome grassland had intermediate infiltration rates. Surface soil hydraulic properties differ markedly among land uses, with grasslands having higher saturated hydraulic conductivity. The observations indicate that cultivated soils have lower macroporosity than grassland soils and, therefore, lower infiltration of rain and increased potential for runoff. In contrast, cultivated soils are able to absorb more rainfall and snow melt under unsaturated conditions. Land use changes may alter the water balance of the area by changing the amount of surface runoff and therefore, any changes in existing land use must be done cautiously.
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