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Hydrology 2015, 2(3), 134-147; doi:10.3390/hydrology2030134

Simulating the Hydrologic Impact of Arundo donax Invasion on the Headwaters of the Nueces River in Texas

1
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA
2
Texas A&M AgriLife Research (Texas A&M University System), Vernon, TX 76384, USA
3
Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Temple, TX 76502, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Heejun Chang
Received: 31 May 2015 / Revised: 12 August 2015 / Accepted: 13 August 2015 / Published: 20 August 2015
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Abstract

Arundo donax (hereafter referred to as Arundo), a robust herbaceous plant, has invaded the riparian zones of the Rio Grande River and the rivers of the Texas Hill Country over the last two decades. Arundo was first observed along the Nueces River in central Texas in 1995 by the Nueces River Authority (NRA). It then spread rapidly downstream due to its fast growth rate and availability of streamflow for its consumptive use, and it completely displaced the native vegetation, primarily Panicum virgatum (hereafter referred to as switchgrass) in the riparian zone. It was hypothesized that Arundo reduced streamflows due to higher water use by Arundo when compared to switchgrass. The overall goal of this study was to assess the impacts of Arundo invasion on hydrology of the headwaters of the Nueces River through observed long-term streamflow and precipitation data analysis and simulation modeling with the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). The observed data analysis indicated that while there was no significant change in monthly precipitation between the pre-Arundo invasion (1979–1994) and post-Arundo invasion (1995–2010) periods, streamflows changed significantly showing a positive (slightly increasing) trend during the pre-invasion period and a negative (slightly decreasing) trend during the post-invasion periods. The simulated average (1995–2010) annual evapotranspiration of Arundo in the seven Hydrologic Response Units (HRUs) in which Arundo invaded, was higher by 137 mm when compared to switchgrass. The water uptake by Arundo was therefore higher by 7.2% over switchgrass. Higher water uptake by Arundo resulted in a 93 mm higher irrigation (water use from the reach/stream) annually when compared to switchgrass. In addition, the simulated average annual water yield (net amount of water that was generated from the seven Arundo HRUs and contributed to streamflow) under Arundo was less by about 17 mm as compared to switchgrass. In conclusion, model simulations indicated that Arundo invasion in the Nueces River has caused a statistically significant increase in water uptake and reduction in streamflow compared to the native switchgrass, which previously dominated the headwaters. View Full-Text
Keywords: Arundo donax; SWAT; invasive species; karst aquifer; water balance; riparian areas; giant cane Arundo donax; SWAT; invasive species; karst aquifer; water balance; riparian areas; giant cane
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Jain, S.; Ale, S.; Munster, C.L.; Ansley, R.J.; Kiniry, J.R. Simulating the Hydrologic Impact of Arundo donax Invasion on the Headwaters of the Nueces River in Texas. Hydrology 2015, 2, 134-147.

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