Assessing the effects of soil use changes on soil moisture regimes in mountain regions (Catalan Pre-Pyrenees, NE Spain)
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Soil moisture regimes under different land uses were observed and modeled in a representative forest basin in the Catalonian Pre-Pyrenees, more specifically in the Ribera Salada catchment (222.5 km2). The vegetation cover in the catchment consists of pasture, tillage and forest. A number of representative
plots for each of these land cover types were intensely monitored during the study period. The annual precipitation fluctuates between 516 and 753 mm, while the soil moisture content oscillates between 14 and 26% in the middle and low lying areas of the basin, and between 21 and 48% in shady zones near the river bed, and in the higher parts of the basin. Soil moisture and rainfall are controlled firstly by altitude, with the existence of two climatic types in the basin (sub-Mediterranean and sub-alpine), and further, by land use. Two models were applied to the estimated water moisture regimes: the Jarauta Simulation Newhall model (JSM) and the Newhall simulation model (NSM) were found to be able to predict the soil moisture regimes in the basin in the different combinations of local abiotic and biotic factors. The JSM results are more precise than the results obtained using another frequently used method, more specifically the Newhall Simulation Model (NSM), which has been developed to simulate soil moisture regimes. NSM was found to overestimate wet soil moisture regimes. The results show the importance of the moisture control section size and Available Water Capacity (AWC) of the profile, in the moisture section control state and variability. The mountain soils are dominated by ustic and occasionally xeric regimes. Land use changes leading to an increase in forest areas would imply drier soil conditions and therefore drier soil water regimes. These effects are most evident in degraded shallow and stony soils with low AWC.