JOBBAGY GAMPEL Esteban Gabriel
Changes in water fluxes partition related to the replacement of native dry forests by crops in the Dry Chaco
RODRIGUEZ, PAULA; GIMÉNEZ, RAÚL; NOSETTO, MARCELO D.; JOBBÁGY, ESTEBAN G.; MAGLIANO, PATRICIO N.
JOURNAL OF ARID ENVIRONMENTS
ACADEMIC PRESS LTD-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD
Año: 2020 vol. 183
Land-use change has been the strongest driver of vegetation cover change in the world. In the South American Dry Chaco (~1 M km2; PPT/ET0 < 0.65), native dry forests are experiencing high deforestation rates that tend to continue in the coming years. Here, we used a hydrological model (Hydrus 1-D) to analyze changes in the water balance triggered by the replacement of dry forests by annual rainfed summer crops. We found that transpiration represented the main water vapour flux in both vegetation covers (59 and 48% of annual rainfall in dry forest and cropland, respectively), followed by evaporation (31 and 30%, respectively) and interception (11 and 9%, respectively). Runoff was five times higher in the cropland compared to the dry forest (10 vs. 2%; p < 0.01). Deep drainage was a negligible water flux in dry forests but it represented 4% of annual rainfall in croplands (p < 0.01), reaching values of zero and 130 mm year−1 for dry and wet years, respectively. Our results highlight the key role of vegetation cover controlling ecosystem water fluxes in the Dry Chaco. More generally, we suggest that the expansion of dryland cultivation can modify the regional water balance and threaten the primary production of ecosystems in the long run.