Temporal and spatial effects of a long term large scale alley farming experiment on water table dynamics: implications for effective agroforestry design

Saskia Noorduijn

    Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

    71 Downloads (Pure)


    [Truncated abstract] Removal of native vegetation to facilitate traditional agriculture practices has been shown to reduce ecosystem health, and restricts the native habitat. The subsequent change in the predominant vegetation water use patterns has altered the catchment water balance, and hydrology which results in land degradation through such processes of salinisation and water logging. More recently, moves toward more sustainable farming practices have been taken to help re-establish catchment hydrological equilibrium and improve catchment ecosystem services. Agroforestry is one such vehicle for this reestablishment. Perennial native vegetation has been shown to have a significant effect on catchment processes, mitigating any further degradation of the land. The effect of alternating native perennial tree belts with traditional broad acre agriculture in the alleys, referred to as alley farming, is investigated in this thesis due to the potential environmental and economic benefits that can result. This thesis investigates the impact of tree belts upon the water table and aims to gauge the ability of alley farming at controlling recharge within the low-medium rainfall zone on the valley floor. The basis of this research is the analysis of data collected from the Toolibin Alley Faring Trial. This experiment was established in 1995 to assess the viability of alley farming and incorporates different combinations of belt width, alley width and revegetation density. Transects of piezometers within each design have been monitored from October 1995 to January 2008. The piezometers were sporadically monitored over this period on a total of 39 dates. ... To further understand the response observed in the water table data, in depth hydrograph analysis of the control piezometer water levels was conducted. The statistical analysis demonstrates that the belts are having a very limited impact on the water table morphology, this is associated with the restricted use of groundwater by the perennial tree belts due to the poor quality, has been applied. This explains why there is limited signature of increased water table depth in the statistical analysis; there is evidence that alley farming as a means of reducing recharge may work however the overriding control on the trial are the rainfall trends rather than perennial growth. The low perennial biomass production at the site is an effect of limited water resources; however a significant distinction can be made between the water table depth and variability beneath high and low biomass belts. There are three main controls at the site; climate, development of perennial biomass and development of perennial root systems (both vertically and laterally). The regional climatic trends will influence water table levels creating a greater soil water storage capacity; therefore the contribution of soil water to transpiration rates will enable the tree belts to have some impact on recharge. Of the alley farming designs tested, the optimal planting density and belt/alley design, from an economic perspective, is identified as having a 4m belt width which generated the greatest biomass. As a means of controlling recharge at the site the effectiveness of alley farming is limited due the shallow saline water table limiting perennial growth.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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