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Fine gravel controls hydrologic and erodibility responses to trampling disturbance for coarse-textured soils with weak cyanobacterial crusts

Herrick, J. E., Van Zee, J. W., Belnap, J., Johansen, J. R., Remmenga, M.
Catena 2010 v.83 no.2-3 pp. 119
Cyanobacteria, biomass, chlorophyll, coarse-textured soils, disturbed soils, ecosystems, erodibility, gravel, infiltration (hydrology), rain, rainfall simulation, runoff, sand, soil crusts, trampling damage, water erosion
We compared short-term effects of lug-soled boot trampling disturbance on water infiltration and soil erodibility on coarse-textured soils covered by a mixture of fine gravel and coarse sand over weak cyanobacterially-dominated biological soil crusts. Trampling significantly reduced final infiltration rate and total infiltration and increased sediment generation from small (0.5 m2) rainfall simulation plots (p<0.01). Trampling had no effect on time to runoff or time to peak runoff. Trampling had similar effects at sites with both low and very low levels of cyanobacterial biomass, as indicated chlorophyll a concentrations. We concluded that trampling effects are relatively independent of differences in the relatively low levels of cyanobacterial biomass in this environment. Instead, trampling appears to reduce infiltration by significantly reducing the cover of gravel and coarse sand on the soil surface, facilitating the development of a physical crust during rainfall events. The results of this study underscore the importance of carefully characterizing both soil physical and biological properties to understand how disturbance affects ecosystem processes.