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Roles of saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) and capillary rise in salinizing a non-flooding terrace on a flow-regulated desert river

January 1, 2012

Tamarix spp. (saltcedar) secretes salts and has been considered to be a major factor contributing to the salinization of river terraces in western US riparian zones. However, salinization can also occur from the capillary rise of salts from the aquifer into the vadose zone. We investigated the roles of saltcedar and physical factors in salinizing the soil profile of a non-flooding terrace at sites on the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge on the Lower Colorado River, USA. We placed salt traps under and between saltcedar shrubs and estimated the annual deposition rate of salts from saltcedar. These were then compared to the quantities and distribution on of salts in the soil profile. Dense stands of saltcedar deposited 0.159 kg m−2 yr−1 of salts to the soil surface. If this rate was constant since seasonal flooding ceased in 1938 and all of the salts were retained in the soil profile, they could account for 11.4 kg m−2 of salt, about 30% of total salts in the profile today. Eliminating saltcedar would not necessarily reduce salts, because vegetation reduces the upward migration of salts in bulk flow from the aquifer. The densest saltcedar stand had the lowest salt levels in the vadose zone in this study.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2012
Title Roles of saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) and capillary rise in salinizing a non-flooding terrace on a flow-regulated desert river
DOI 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2011.11.025
Authors E.P. Glenn, K. Morino, Pamela L. Nagler, R.S. Murray, S. Pearlstein, K.R. Hultine
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Arid Environments
Series Number
Index ID 70032663
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center