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Slash Application Reduces Soil Erosion in Steep-Sloped Piñon-Juniper Woodlands ☆,☆☆

Noelle , Sarah M., Carr , Craig A., Stringham , Tamzen K., Weltz , Mark A.
Rangeland ecology & management 2017 v.70 no.6 pp. 774-780
range management, rangelands, runoff, sediment yield, slash, soil erosion, topographic slope, trees, vegetation cover, woodlands, woody plants
Mitigating runoff and associated erosion is a fundamental challenge for sustainable management of rangelands. Hillslope runoff and erosion are strongly influenced by ground cover; thus, a strategic management option exists to increase cover with slash from woody plant removal activities, particularly on lands experiencing woody plant expansion. Most studies assessing slash effects on runoff and erosion have been limited to moderate slopes; however, substantial portions of rangelands exist on steeper slopes where the effectiveness of slash application is less clear. On a steep (30% ± 5%) slope that had been encroached by piñon and juniper trees, we evaluated the effectiveness of slash in reducing runoff and erosion using a portable rainfall simulator (100-yr return period events). Although total runoff did not differ across slash levels, there was marginal evidence of a difference associated with vegetation cover. Sediment yield for plots with low vegetation cover (< 13% cover) was 3.4 times greater than those with high cover, while plots with slash present (≥ 30% cover) experienced 5.4 times less sediment yield than plots without slash. These results extend findings from moderate to steep slopes, highlighting the potential efficacy of slash application for reducing erosion in steep-sloped rangelands.