Contrasting effects of native and exotic vegetation on soil infiltrability in the Sonoran Desert

Pedro A.M. Leite*, Alejandro E. Castellanos, Bradford P. Wilcox, Masuly Vega-Puga, Enrique Martínez, Sara Dennis, Sofía Choza, Delia M. Acuña-Acosta

*Autor correspondiente de este trabajo

Producción científica: Contribución a una revistaArtículorevisión exhaustiva

2 Citas (Scopus)


Invasion by exotic grasses is transforming drylands across the planet, but the ecohydrological feedbacks of such invasions are not fully understood. For example, in the Sonoran Desert, previous studies have shown that buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris) alters the spatial patterns of soil moisture, leading researchers to hypothesize that such alterations are related to the plants' effects on soil infiltrability. To evaluate this hypothesis, we compared field-saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kfs) in a native shrubland with that in a neighboring savanna extensively dominated by exotic buffelgrass. We measured Kfs during the dormant and growing seasons in both canopy and intercanopy zones. We found that Kfs was generally lower during the dormant season than during the growing season. There were no significant differences between sites during the dormant season, and at both sites, Kfs was 6–7 times higher under shrubs than in the intercanopies. During the growing season, Kfs for the exotic intercanopy was comparable to that for shrub cluster edges (140 mm h−1) and was more than twice that for the native intercanopy. Both shrubs and buffelgrass improved Kfs by reducing soil bulk density (thus increasing porosity). Additionally, surface roughness in the exotic intercanopy was nearly 3 times higher than in the native intercanopy. The combination of greater surface roughness and higher infiltration rates during the growing season most likely alters hydrological connectivity in savannas invaded by exotic grasses such as buffelgrass. By capturing portions of the runoff generated in the intercanopy, these grasses reduce runon into shrub patches, with potentially substantial impacts on native vegetation dynamics and stability.

Idioma originalInglés
Número de artículo158544
PublicaciónScience of the Total Environment
EstadoPublicada - 15 dic. 2022

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© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


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