Comparison of hydrologic dynamics in forested and agricultural sub-watersheds of a large mixed-use Prairie watershed

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Petzold, Halya
Ali, Genevieve
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The natural history of the Prairies includes the large-scale human modification of landscape biology and hydrology from first settlement to present. Forested land has been and continues to be lost and runoff is increasingly artificially drained in this intensively managed region. The impact of such modifications on hydrological dynamics has yet to be understood in such a way that measurable landscape alterations (i.e., area of forest lost, hydraulic capacity of artificial surface drains) can be linked to quantifiable alterations in event storm hydrographs or hydrological regimes. Here we focused on a large mixed-used watershed to compare the temporal hydrological dynamics of forested sub-watersheds to those of neighbouring, deforested agricultural sub-watersheds within a similar geologic and pedologic setting. The Catfish Creek Watershed (CCW) drains a 600 km2 area located approximately 90 km north-east of Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada; see Fig. 1a) and has been extensively impacted by human activities including the continued clearing of forested land for cultivation. It is characterized as a low-relief, agro-forested watershed (~45% forest, ~40% crops, ~10% swamp, ~5% other, see Fig. 1b). Surface runoff is managed in part by a network of artificial drains in both the forested and cultivated portions of this watershed. The lower CCW is naturally-vegetated by parkland forest and swamp. The eastern edge of the upper watershed is also forested and of greater relative relief, while to the west the landscape is dominated by intensive, large-scale agricultural operations on a near-level landscape.
forested, agricultural, sub-watershed, 2014, hydrology, Catfish Creek Watershed, hydrologic dynamics, mixed use landscape