This experimental research compares the physical and hydraulic properties of two adjacent soils, one covered with a native forest of Mediterranean maquis, and the other with spontaneous grass. The latter replaced the previous natural forest. The aim is to quantify the significant differences in the soil properties caused by the removal of the natural vegetation. Although the soil texture was similar in the different land uses, the soil under the forest had a higher organic matter content, a lower apparent density and a higher water content at saturation than the grassed soil. The analysis of the water retention characteristics indicated that the retained water content of the forest soil exceeded that of the grassed soil in the range from saturation to -50 cm of water tension. This suggests that changing the land use altered the soil pore structure within this range. The hydraulic conductivity of the forest soil exceeded that of the grassed soil at water tensions of -10, -5 and -3 cm. Conversely the hydraulic conductivity of the grassed soil was similar to that of the forest soil at -1 cm of water tension and at saturation. This result was probably due to the hydraulic activation of the desiccation cracks in the grassed soil. This increased the amount of infiltrated water in saturated and near-saturated soil conditions. This work shows that changes in land use have an unfavorable impact on the physical and hydraulic properties of the soil. Soil covered with grass is more vulnerability to water erosion than that under forest, and there is likely to be general worsening of flow regimes.
Comparing the hydraulic properties of forested and grassed soils on an experimental hillslope in a Mediterranean environment / Pirastru, Mario; Castellini, Mirko; Giadrossich, Filippo; Niedda, Marcello. - In: PROCEDIA ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES. - ISSN 1878-0296. - 19:(2013), pp. 341-350. [10.1016/j.proenv.2013.06.039]