Relationship of salinity and depth to the water table on Tamarix spp. (Saltcedar) growth and water use.



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Texas A&M University


Saltcedar is an invasive shrub that has moved into western United States riparian areas and is continuing to spread. Saltcedar is a phreatophyte that can utilize a saturated water table for moisture once established and is also highly tolerant of saline soil and water conditions. Literature has indicated that depth to the water table and salinity have a significant effect on growth and water use by saltcedar. Several studies were initiated to help develop a simulation model of saltcedar growth and water use based on the EPIC9200 simulation model. A study was initiated at the USDA-ARS Blackland Research Center Temple, Texas in the summer of 2002 to better understand the effects of water table depth and salinity on (1) saltcedar above and below ground biomass, root distribution, leaf area and (2) water use. Five different salinity levels (ranging from 0 ppm to 7500 ppm) and three different water table depths (0.5m, 1.0m, and 1.75m) were studied. Results indicated that increasing depth to the water table decreased saltcedar water use and growth. For the 0.5m water table depth, saltcedar water use during the 2002 growing season averaged 92.7 ml d-1 while the 1.75m depth averaged 56.6 ml d-1. Both root and shoot growth were depressed by increasing water table depth. Salinity had no effect on saltcedar growth or water use except at the 1250 ppm level, which used 110 ml of H2O d-1. This salinity had the highest water use indicating that this may be near the ecological optimum level of salinity for saltcedar. A predictive equation was developed for saltcedar water use using climatic data for that day, the previous day's climatic data, water table depth and salinity that included: previous day total amount of solar radiation, water table depth, previous day average wind speed, salinity, previous day total precipitation, previous day average vapor pressure, minimum relative humidity, previous day average wind direction, and maximum air temperature. Data from the field study and a potential growth study were integrated into the model. The model was parameterized for the Pecos River near Mentone, Texas. Predicted saltcedar water use was slightly lower than results reported by White et al. 2003.