The effects of desert pavements (gravel mulch) on soil micro-hydrology
The effect of desert pavements (gravel mulch) on near surface soil micro-hydrology has been inadequately studied. Micro-hydrology in arid ecosystems occurs due to a daily non rainfall atmospheric water cycle, consisting of an input phase (dew, fog, vapour adsorption) and an evaporation phase. A winter comparative study between a bare soil (control) and gravel mulch using the automated microlysimeter approach was conducted in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2008. Results showed that dew deposition and direct water vapour adsorption were significantly higher into bare soil compared to gravel mulch. In contrast, however, soil moisture from rain persists for a longer time under gravel mulch compared to bare soil. This result suggests that the greatest impact of gravel mulch on soil micro-hydrology is towards conserving moisture and could explain why the treatment is used in dry-land agriculture in Mediterranean regions. © 2011 Springer Basel AG.