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Runoff and sediment responses to grazing native and introduced species on highly erodible Southern Great Plains soil

Wine, Michael L., Zou, Chris B., Bradford, James A., Gunter, Stacey A.
Journal of hydrology 2012 v.450-451 pp. 336-341
Agricultural Research Service, Bothriochloa ischaemum, aboveground biomass, grazing, indigenous species, nitrogen fertilizers, plant litter, prairies, rain, runoff, sediment yield, sediments, stocking rate, storms, topsoil, watersheds, Great Plains region, Oklahoma
Old World Bluestems, such as yellow bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum), have been seeded extensively in the Southern Great Plains because they are responsive to nitrogen fertilization and allow for higher stocking rates. From 1991 to 2005, we measured the effects of moderately grazing prairie species and heavily grazing fertilized yellow bluestem on runoff, sediment yield, leaf litter cover, and aboveground plant biomass for four adjacent watersheds located at the USDA-ARS Southern Plains Range Research Station in the sub-humid Rolling Red Plains of western Oklahoma. Here we show that factors other than leaf litter cover and biomass determine variation in runoff when leaf litter exceeds 70%. Runoff was related to grazing rate and storm size and inversely related to storm duration. Rainfall thresholds were similar between the moderately grazed prairie watersheds (15mm) and the heavily grazed yellow bluestem watersheds (18mm); however, the slope of the rainfall–runoff curve from heavily grazed yellow bluestem (0.242) was steeper than that of moderately grazed prairie (0.087). Slightly higher runoff from heavily grazed yellow bluestem relative to moderately grazed prairie may occur due to compaction of both the leaf litter and topsoil. Sediment yield was low from moderately grazed native prairie and heavily grazed yellow bluestem. Our findings indicate that both treatments assessed appear hydrologically sustainable.