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Enhanced infiltration by trees in floodable cattle ranches in Paraguay

Abstract

Periodic flooding limits livestock farming on cattle ranches in floodable areas. In order to propose recommendations for sustainable management of these ranches, we examined the relationships between surface water hydrological processes (infiltration and evaporation) and vegetation cover in the Paraguayan Humid Chaco. A total of 24 evaporation and infiltration measurements were made in a gradient of woody vegetation density between the forest and the adjacent grassland, and at different distances from reference trees (from the trunk to outside the tree crown). Soil texture and moisture were also characterized. There was a positive effect of woody vegetation density on infiltration although final infiltration rates in forests (94.5 mm h− 1) were not significantly higher than in grasslands (22.0 mm h− 1) or forest-grassland transition (11.5 mm h− 1). Evaporation was significantly lower in forests (0.0338 mm h− 1) than in grassland (0.1361 mm h− 1) or at the transition zone (0.0868 mm h− 1), reflecting the effects of tree cover on microhabitat features. Infiltration rates decreased with the distance to the tree trunk. These results support our hypothesis that subtropical forests, specifically Schinopsis balansae and Psidium sp., have a positive effect on infiltration, and these forests have a negative effect on surface water evaporation. Introduction of trees at relative low densities in deforested rangelands may help improve hydrological services (i.e., enhance soil infiltrability) and facilitate cattle raising, while promoting local biodiversity.

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Data Availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Rafaela Laino for her insights, Albretch Glatzle for information on the Paraguayan Chaco, and Enrique Andivia and Joaquín Calatayud for their help with data analysis. Enrique Andivia provided valuable comments on a previous version of this manuscript. We feel indebted to the Roa-Castillo family for their help with field work and to the Cruz-Alonso family for their support with the infiltrometers. This research was supported by the International Foundation for Ecosystem Restoration and the American Chaco Research Center. VCA was supported during the writing of this manuscript by the Environmental Fellowship Programme of “Tatiana Pérez de Guzmán el Bueno” Foundation (2015) and REMEDINAL4 (Madrid Government, TE-CM S2018/EMT-4338).

Funding

This study was funded by the International Foundation for Ecosystem Restoration and the American Chaco Research Center. VCA was supported during the writing of this manuscript by the Environmental Fellowship Programme of “Tatiana Pérez de Guzmán el Bueno” Foundation (2015) and REMEDINAL4 (Madrid Government, TE-CM S2018/EMT-4338).

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VCA, KM and JMRB conceived the ideas and designed the methodology, with the help of JMM; VCA and FV collected the data; VCA analysed the data and led the writing of the manuscript, with the help of JMM. All authors contributed to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to V. Cruz-Alonso.

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Cruz-Alonso, V., Musálem, K., Mongil-Manso, J. et al. Enhanced infiltration by trees in floodable cattle ranches in Paraguay. Agroforest Syst 96, 843–855 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-022-00745-8

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Keywords

  • Evaporation
  • Infiltration
  • Sustainable livestock raising
  • Pastures
  • Wetland hydrology