Runoff characteristics and the influence of land cover in drylands of western Texas
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In dryland regions, where water is a limited resource, land use/land cover has undergone and continues to undergo significant change mainly due to human activities. The nature of runoff from dryland regions and the influence of land use/land cover change are largely not quantified. The objective of this study is to examine runoff dynamics and the influence of land cover in drylands of western Texas across multiple spatial and temporal scales. The study consists of four major components: (1) an experimental study at Honey Creek upland catchment (19 ha) to assess vegetation treatment effects on runoff by hydrometric and isotopic methods; (2) a hydrochemical evaluation of hydrologic linkage between the upland and bottomland at the second-order Honey Creek watershed; (3) a detailed precipitation-streamflow analysis at North Concho River basin to assess long-term and large-scale precipitation-streamflowvegetation dynamics; and (4) a comparison of streamflow in North, Middle, and South Concho River basins and a regional streamflow trend analysis for the entire western Texas. The study indicates runoff production in the drylands of western Texas is dominated by a few large runoff-producing events. The small catchment experiment indicated that runoff increased about 40 mm per year when 60% of woody plants were removed. This effect may relate to the presence of a baseflow component, but was not verified in regional trend analysis for the Edwards Plateau region where most rivers are spring-fed. The decrease in streamflow in North Concho River basin after the 1950's is in large part related to the enhanced infiltration capacity from reduced grazing pressure and improved vegetation cover. Regional streamflow trend analysis suggests some headwater areas outside the Edwards Plateau region experienced patterns of streamflow change similar to those in North Concho River basin, although artificial impoundments complicated the analysis. The study has broader application in ecohydrological research beyond specific geographic areas and specific vegetation types when evaluating the impact of ecosystem structure change on hydrology and water resources.