In many semiarid regions, runoff and erosion differ according to vegetation patch type. These differences, although hypothesized to fundamentally affect ecological processes, have been poorly quantified. In a semiarid pinon-juniper woodland [Pinus edulis Engelm. and Juniperus monosperma (Engelm.) Sarg.] in northern New Mexico, we measured runoff and erosion from the three patch types that compose these woodlands: Canopy patches (those beneath woody plants), vegetated patches in intercanopy areas, and bare patches in intercanopy areas. The bare intercanopy patches exhibited the highest rates, followed by vegetated intercanopy patches and then by canopy patches. Large convective summer storms, though relatively infrequent, generated much of the runoff and most of the sediment; prolonged frontal storms were capable of generating considerable runoff but little sediment. A portion of the runoff and most of the sediment generated from bare intercanopy patches was redistributed downslope, probably to adjacent vegetated intercanopy patches, demonstrating connectivity between these two patch types. Our results indicate that there are significant and important differences in runoff and sediment production from the three patch types; that bare intercanopy patches act as sources of both water and sediment for the vegetated intercanopy patches; and that the transfer of water and sediment at small scales is both frequent enough and substantial enough to be considered ecologically significant.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Soil Science