Hydrological dynamics in a small catchment with silvopastoral land use in SW Spain

S. Schnabel, J. Lozano-Parra, Á. Gómez-Gutiérrez, A. Alfonso-Torreño


Hydrological processes were investigated since the year 2000 in a semiarid rangeland with disperse cover of evergreen holm oaks. In this article results are presented on the spatial variation of rainfall in the catchment using a network of 6 raingauges. Results are also presented on soil water dynamics, which were studied under different vegetation covers and varying soil depths. Furthermore, the temporal variation of runoff generation in the basin outlet is reviewed, taking into account different timescales. The following results can be highlighted: Spatial variation of rainfall in the catchment at annual or monthly scale was low. However, large dispersion exists in the case of individual rainstorms, when the differences between the 6 raingauges varied strongly, both for daily values as well as maximum intensities. Events with high spatial variation are presumably related with small, localized storms, particularly those of high intensity and short duration, and those showing low variation are probably of frontal origin. Soil moisture presented seasonal patterns clearly dependent on factors such as rainfall or evapotranspirative demand. Spatial distribution of soil moisture was mainly affected by physiographic terrain characteristics and vegetation covers. Generally, in dry hydrological years, soil moisture was lower beneath than beyond the tree canopies, while the opposite was observed in wet years. Dry situations increase the intensity and duration of soil water deficits, enhance the evaporative demand and increment water storage capacity by covers. Channel flow in dehesas depends highly on the antecedent moisture conditions and particularly on the water content of the sediment-filled valley bottoms. If these areas become saturated, high amounts of runoff are produced during rainfall events. Under high intensity rainstorms Hortonian overland flow is rapidly generated on hillslopes producing a quick channel response. Interannual runoff variation is very high, the more frequent low rainfall years provoke very low total water flow, contrasting with less frequent years of above average rainfall, which are the ones producing high total runoff. It can be concluded that the hydrological dynamics in Mediterranean rangelands with a disperse tree cover are complex, both regarding soil water and catchment runoff, being highly variable in time. Future changes in land use or climate could affect notably the hydrological dynamics of the catchment, and hence similar upland basins. For example, a notable increase of tree cover would reduce water availability of pasture plants, particularly during dry years. A decrease of annual rainfall amounts and/or increased drought intensities, as a consequence of climate change, would enlarge periods of soil moisture deficit for pasture plants, as well as a reduction of runoff.


discharge; catchment rainfall; soil moisture; runoff generation; dehesa

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18172/cig.3378

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