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Headwaters Deforestation for Cattle Pastures in the Andes of Colombia and Its Implications for Soils Properties and Hydrological Dynamic

DOI: 10.4236/ojf.2016.65027, PP. 337-347

Keywords: Forest Influences, Deforestation, Soil Compaction, Headwaters

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Deforestation of headwater in the Andes of Colombia is a historical process that has its origins in pre-Hispanic communities and in nineteenth and twentieth centuries, intensified by settlers and farmers. These lands have been intended mainly to pasture cattle. Soil compaction, caused by the trampling of cattle, was evaluated in soils derived from volcanic ash (Andisols), with reference to values found for variables in undisturbed natural forests in the same region. The compared parameters were bulk density (Db), total porosity (α), soil resistance to penetration (Rp) and pore size distribution, analyzed by water retention curves (WRC). The grazed soils had significant differences with respect to the natural forest reference values: Db was 53.7% higher, α was reduced by 11.0% and Rp in the first 7.5 cm of the top soil was more than double, with an average increase of 275.2 to 527.2 kPa. The analysis indicated that compacted soils had relatively uniform reduction in distribution of macro, meso and micropores. It was concluded that deforestation followed by pasture land destination in steep headwaters generates significant compaction processes that can affect the infiltration, percolation and soil water storage, which would have important hydrological implications: augmentation of surface runoff and soil erosion, decreased the base flow and increased direct runoff. For this reasons, it is considered that forest restoration of headwaters is important for the maintenance of hydrological functions of large river systems.


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