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Desert grasslands, which are very sensitive to external drivers like climate change, are areas affected by rapid land degradation processes. In many regions of the world the common form of land degradation involves the rapid encroachment of woody plants into desert grasslands. This process, thought to be irreversible and sustained by biophysical feedbacks of global desertification, results in the heterogeneous distribution of vegetation and soil resources. Most of these shrub-grass transition systems at the desert margins are prone to disturbances such as fires, which affect the interactions between ecological, hydrological, and land surface processes. Here we investigate the effect of prescribed fires on the landscape...
The influence of woody vegetation and biological soil crusts on infiltration capacity is one of the several uncertainties associated with the ecohydrologic effects of woody plant encroachment into arid and semi-arid land systems. The objective of this study was to quantify the effects of Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) and pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) on subcanopy and intercanopy ecohydrologic properties. We measured soil sorptivity, unsaturated hydraulic conductivity [K(h)], soil water content (SWC), and water repellency along radial line transects from under Juniperus and Pinus trees into the centre of the intercanopy space between trees. In the subcanopy, litter mounds, hydrophobic soils, and roots all appear...