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Vegetation influences on infiltration in Hawaiian soils

March 20, 2018

Changes in vegetation communities caused by removing trees, introducing grazing ungulates, and replacing native plants with invasive species have substantially altered soil infiltration processes and rates in Hawaii. These changes directly impact run-off, erosion, plant-available water, and aquifer recharge. We hypothesize that broad vegetation communities can be characterized by distributions of field-saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kfs). We used 290 measurements of Kfs calculated from infiltration tests from 5 of the Hawaiian Islands to show this effect. We classified the data using 3 broad ecosystem categories: grasses, trees and shrubs, and bare soil. The soils of each site have coevolved with past and present ecological communities without significant mechanical disturbance by agriculture or urban development. Geometric mean values Kfs are 203 mm/hr for soils hosting trees and shrubs, 50 mm/hr for grasses, and 13 mm/hr for bare soil. Differences are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. These examples show that it is feasible to make maps of relative Kfs based on field and ecosystem data. These ecosystem trends can be used to estimate ongoing changes to run-off and recharge from climate and land use change. Greater Kfs for ecosystems with primarily trees and shrubs suggests that management decisions concerning reforestation or other changes of vegetation can have substantial hydrologic impacts.

Publication Year 2018
Title Vegetation influences on infiltration in Hawaiian soils
DOI 10.1002/eco.1973
Authors Kimberlie Perkins, Jonathan D. Stock, John R. Nimmo
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecohydrology
Index ID 70238007
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center; National Research Program - Western Branch; WMA - Earth System Processes Division