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Assessing plot-scale impacts of land use on overland flow generation in Central Panama

September 30, 2020

Land use in Panama has changed dramatically with ongoing deforestation and conversion to cropland and cattle pastures, potentially altering the soil properties that drive the hydrological processes of infiltration and overland flow. We compared plot-scale overland flow generation between hillslopes in forested and actively cattle-grazed watersheds in Central Panama. Soil physical and hydraulic properties, soil moisture and overland flow data were measured along hillslopes of each land-use type. Soil characteristics and rainfall data were input into a simple, 1-D representative model, HYDRUS-1D, to simulate overland flow that we used to make inferences about overland flow response at forest and pasture sites. Runoff ratios (overland flow/rainfall) were generally higher at the pasture site, although no overall trends were observed between rainfall characteristics and runoff ratios across the two land uses at the plot scale. Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks) and bulk density were different between the forest and pasture sites (p < 10−4). Simulating overland flow in HYDRUS-1D produced more outputs similar to the overland flow recorded at the pasture site than the forest site. Results from our study indicate that, at the plot scale, Hortonian overland flow is the main driver for overland flow generation at the pasture site during storms with high-rainfall totals. We infer that the combination of a leaf litter layer and the activation of shallow preferential flow paths resulting in shallow saturation-excess overland flow are likely the main drivers for plot scale overland flow generation at the forest site. Results from this study contribute to the broader understanding of the delivery of freshwater to streams, which will become increasingly important in the tropics considering freshwater resource scarcity and changing storm intensities.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Assessing plot-scale impacts of land use on overland flow generation in Central Panama
DOI 10.1002/hyp.13924
Authors Sidney A. Bush, Robert Stallard, Brian A. Ebel, Holly R. Barnard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Hydrological Processes
Series Number
Index ID 70224335
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Earth System Processes Division

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