Water runoff harvesting systems for restoration of degraded rangelands: A review of challenges and opportunities
By: Stavi, I., Siad, S.M., Kyriazopoulos, A.P., Halbac-Cotoara-Zamfir, R.
Published in: Journal of Environmental Management (2020) 255, 109823. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479719315415
Mismanagement of rangelands worldwide has accelerated processes of overland flow and soil erosion, resulting in extensive land degradation. Wherever self-restoration processes of degraded rangelands are hindered or negated, active recovery efforts, coupled with livestock pressure management, might be needed. The objective of this review paper is to provide land managers and environmental planners with applied and practical knowledge on advantages and disadvantages of the main methodologies and practices for runoff harvesting in rangelands. Preferably, restoration efforts should focus on forming low-footprint runoff harvesting systems on hillslopes which encompass the runoff’s source area. These systems should imitate natural patchiness, strengthening source-sink relations, accelerating re-establishment of herbaceous and woody vegetation, maximizing the retaining of water on hillslopes, regulating hydrological connectivity, lessening soil erosion, and minimizing transmission of water to stream channels. The resulting lower-energy floods are expected to negate the need for massive check dams in channels. If flood dissipation in streams is still necessary, then high- to medium-porosity check dams, made of local materials, might be effective for lessening scour processes and sediment transport. Furthermore, in terms of environmental sustainability, a large number of pointed (e.g., branch bundles; brush or woody piles; micro-catchments) or low- to medium-footprint lineal means for regulating surface processes in hillslopes (e.g., stone terraces; contour furrows / trenches / ditches) and channels (e.g., log check dams; loose rock check dams; porous or semi-permeable rock check dams; gabions) are expected to be more cost-effective than a small number of massive means (e.g., contour bench terraces; earth bunds / dykes; concrete check dams). If runoff harvesting systems are properly designed, restoration processes over time are expected to generate geo-ecological feedbacks and recover eco-hydrological functioning, increasing pasture productivity and sustaining rangeland carrying capacity.