The Walnut Gulch – Santa Rita Wildland Watershed-Scale LTAR Sites
Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
The 150 km2 Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (WGEW), a Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) site, near Tombstone, Arizona was established in 1953 by the USDA-ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center in Tucson. It is one of the most intensively instrumented semiarid experimental watersheds in the world with elevation ranging from 1220 to 1950 m with mean annual temperature and precipitation equal to 17.7°C and 312 mm. Desert shrubs dominate the lower two thirds of the watershed and grasses the upper third. Spatial variation in precipitation is measured with a network of 88 weighing-type recording rain gauges. Surface runoff is quantified over a range of scales (0.002 to 0.06 km2) to characterize interactions between rainfall intensity, soils and vegetation at nine sub-watersheds. Channel network processes and rainfall spatial variability are studied using 11 nested watersheds (2 to 150 km2). Sediment from the small sub-watersheds is sampled. Meteorological, soil moisture and temperature, and energy/water/CO2 flux measurements are made within two vegetation/soil complexes. Parallel investigations dating back to 1974 have also been conducted on eight small experimental watersheds at the Santa Rita Experimental Range (SRER) 80 km west of Walnut Gulch. In contrast to the creosote bush-grass WGEW, the mesquite-grass SRER is publicly owned, which ensures control and consistent reporting of management for research purposes. A key LTAR objective is to contrast a “business as usual” to an alternate management strategy presumed to have the potential of significantly improving forage and livestock production and diversification of ecosystem services. Consequently, a new ARS-U. of Arizona-Arizona State U. partnership will assess the watershed-scale impacts of brush management, a common land use practice typically applied in conjunction with livestock grazing, on a suite of ecosystem services at the SRER including provisioning (forage production, water yield), supporting (ecosystem primary production, soil moisture), and regulating services (C sequestration, peak flows, sediment yield, land surface-atmosphere interactions). Experimental design, management and monitoring being implemented to quantify these ecosystem services will be presented.