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The hydrologic implications of old field succession: depression storage and leaf litter


Correspondence to: Paul L. Richards, Department of Earth Sciences, The College at Brockport, Brockport, NY 14420, USA.



Previous studies have noted the importance of vegetation in controlling run-off in terrestrial landscapes. Here, we hypothesize that ecologic succession from mowed grassland to old field to forest will impact run-off characteristics due to changing vegetation characteristics that affect soil surface processes. We test this idea by measuring depression storage and leaf litter water retention rates in 13 sites across this successional gradient. Sites of similar slope and soil type were also evaluated against one another to isolate the effect of vegetation diversity and management on depression storage. Results showed that average ideal depression storage increased with greater vegetation diversity and structure. Effective depression storage of unmanaged systems was significantly higher than mowed systems, implying that management activities retard the natural development of microtopography. Results of leaf litter water retention varied among land covers but contributed less than depression storage for water capture. These results demonstrate the tight linkages between vegetation succession and run-off. Understanding these characteristics is necessary for developing effective hydrologic models. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.