Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018NM193B

Increase soil water for desirable plants through invasive plant management

Institute: New Mexico
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $30,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $60,000

Principal Investigators: Kert Young, Doug Cram

Abstract: Everyone in the semi-arid Southwest depends on scarce water supplies and agricultural production. Precipitation on rangelands is the greatest source of water to the hydrologic system in the semi-arid Southwest. Woody species are outcompeting the historical herbaceous plants and small shrubs for resources needed for plant growth and reproduction. Rangeland degradation results in water wasted to excessive runoff, evaporation, and invasive plant growth and spread. The takeover of large woody species on land formerly dominated by herbaceous and small shrub species reallocates water from beneficial use by historic grasses and small shrubs to invasive large shrubs and trees that waste water on further non-beneficial woody species growth, water runoff, soil erosion, sedimentation, and further habitat degradation and loss of production. Public and private land managers are spending a lot time and money shredding juniper (mechanical mastication with large tractors) to help address system degradation caused by juniper invasion. Land managers need a better understanding of treatment effects on future vegetation structure and function, wildlife population abundance and habitat, fuel structure and loading, fire behavior, water (e.g., availability, infiltration, runoff), soil (e.g., erosion, sedimentation, biotic communities), and rural community socioeconomics. Our research will fill in some of these gaps in scientific knowledge necessary to improve water management, conserve natural resources, and sustain agricultural families and businesses in the semi-arid Southwest.