Ecohydrological transformation in the Dry Chaco and the risk of dryland salinity: Following Australia's footsteps?

Victoria A. Marchesini, Raúl Giménez, Marcelo D. Nosetto, Esteban G. Jobbágy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    During the last century, the massive conversion of Australian dry forests to crops and pastures triggered the massive soil and groundwater degradation process known as dryland salinity. Currently, South American Chaco's dry forests are undergoing a similar transformation, leading global deforestation rates. The goal of this study was to review existing ecohydrological information about natural and cultivated systems in the Chaco to assess the dryland salinity risks. We review deep soil water, salt stocks, and groundwater recharge from agriculture or native dry forests stands located in a precipitation range of 450–1100 mm. We complement this with water table level records and geoelectric profiles together with personal observations. We use data from 15 Australian studies for comparison. Strong salt leaching, especially after 20 years of forest clearance, indicates the onset of deep drainage following forest conversion to agriculture in the Dry Chaco. Water stocks were more than double in the cleared stands compared to their dry forest pairs, and recharge rates were up to two order magnitude higher in agricultural areas. Although lower atmospheric salt deposition, younger sediments, and relatively high water-consuming agricultural systems in the Dry Chaco attenuate salinization risks compared to Australia, the very flat topography and related shallow water table levels of the South American region could make groundwater recharge and salt mobilization processes more widespread and difficult to manage. The lack of awareness among the general public, farmers, and decision makers about this issue amplifies the problem, making land management plans for the Argentine dry forest territories essential.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere1822
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


    Dive into the research topics of 'Ecohydrological transformation in the Dry Chaco and the risk of dryland salinity: Following Australia's footsteps?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this