Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 45, Issue 1–3, pp 203–214 | Cite as

Towards achieving functional ecosystem mimicry with respect to water cycling in southern Australian agriculture



The southern Australian landscape is characterised by large climatic variability and an old, weathered surface with generally low hydraulic gradients. Many of these landscapes are prone to salinisation. The original ecosystems have strategies to cope with this environment in ways which minimise runoff and groundwater recharge. Replacement of these ecosystems with conventional agriculture has resulted in large-scale disruption of the natural water cycle with severe environmental, economic and social consequences. Sustainable agricultural systems aimed at mimicking natural hydrology must either minimise groundwater recharge over most of this landscape or intercept groundwater discharge in lower parts of the landscape prior to salinisation to restore the original hydrological balance. Empirical and theoretical analyses suggest that however vegetation is managed in the landscape, effective water balance control will be achieved only at a leaf area index approaching that of the natural state, indicating revegetation of most or all parts of the catchment with either trees or plants with similar ecohydrological characteristics as trees. There are at present few economically- attractive agricultural systems able to achieve hydrologic mimicry likely to be adopted at the necessary scale.

dryland salinity ecohydrology groundwater hydrology 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIRO Land and WaterWembleyAustralia
  2. 2.Agriculture Western AustraliaSouth PerthAustralia

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