The soil moisture regime and groundwater recharge in aged forests in the Sand Ridge region of Hungary after a decline in the groundwater level: an experimental case study
AbstractThe decline in groundwater levels is a cause of concern in many regions of the world, including the Sand Ridge of Hungary. The causes of the regional depletion range from rising air temperatures, changes in precipitation, domestic and agricultural groundwater use and past amelioration and recent afforestation, including the effects of drilling for crude oil exploration. The relations between the decline, the soil water regime and groundwater recharge under existing aged forests remained unclear thus far. Based on our monitoring of groundwater and soil moisture we aim to clarify this interplay in a new experimental site on the hilltop of the Sand Ridge. We compared three land-uses: a 41-year-old black locust (Robinia Pseudoacacia) offshoot forest, an 83-year-old first generation black pine (Pinus nigra) forest, and a grassland control site. The observed differences in the soil moisture profiles and dynamics were connected to the use of water by the given type of vegetation. We indicated a connection between the disruption of the groundwater recharge and the loss of contact of the rooting system of the forests with the deepening of the unconfined aquifer. Even if the aged forests could locally contribute to the decline, we conclude that the decline at the hilltop site that may be more strongly driven by other regional factors.