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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Excessive livestock grazing overrides the positive effects of trees on infiltration capacity and modifies preferential flow in dry Miombo woodlands

Lulandala, Lufunyo; Bargues Tobella, Aida; Masao, C. A.; Nyberg, Gert; Ilstedt, Ulrik

Abstract

The increase in livestock grazing in African drylands such as miombo woodlands threatens land productivity and ecosystem functioning. Trees have positive effects on soil hydraulic properties, but few studies have looked at grazing intensity and hydrological functioning in different land uses. Therefore, we conducted a biophysical survey in Morogoro Rural District, Tanzania, where we identified four main land uses and land cover types, that is, Forest reserve, open-access forest, cropland under fallow, and active cropland. We assessed grazing intensity, measured infiltration capacity, and conducted dye tracer experiments to assess the degree of preferential flow in 64 plots. We also tested the effect of grazing exclusion on infiltration capacity in 12-year-old fenced plots. Our results show that irrespective of land use or cover type, soil bulk density increased by 10% from low to high grazing intensity, whereas infiltration capacity and soil organic carbon decreased by 55% and 28%, respectively. We found a positive relationship between infiltration capacity and tree basal area in plots with lowest grazing intensities. However, at higher grazing, the infiltration capacity remained low independently of the basal area. Preferential flow in deeper soils was six-times higher in areas with no grazing, indicating higher deep soil and groundwater recharge potential at low grazing intensities. We conclude that the negative impacts on soil hydrological functioning of excessive livestock grazing override the positive effect of trees, but restricting grazing can reverse the impact.

Keywords

grazing intensity; land use and land cover; miombo woodlands; preferential flow paths; ring infiltrometer; steady-state infiltration capacity

Published in

Land Degradation and Development
2022, volume: 33, number: 4, pages: 581-595

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Masao, C. A.
University of Dar es Salaam
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Forest Science

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ldr.4149

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/114396