Effects of Reforestation of a Degraded Imperata Grassland on Dominant Flow Pathways and Streamflow Responses in Leyte, the Philippines

H. J.(Ilja) van Meerveld*, Jun Zhang, Roger Tripoli, L. Adrian Bruijnzeel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Reforestation of degraded grasslands can increase the soil hydraulic conductivity and number of preferential flow pathways. However, it is not clear to what extent these changes affect streamflow responses and whether this depends on the event size. We, therefore, studied the hydrological response of two small catchments near Tacloban, Leyte (the Philippines): a degraded Imperata grassland catchment and a catchment that was reforested 23 years prior to our study. Precipitation, stream stage, and electrical conductivity were measured continuously from June to November 2013. Samples were taken from streamflow, precipitation, groundwater, and soil water for geochemical and stable isotope analyses. Streamflow and electrical conductivity changed rapidly during almost every event in the grassland catchment, but in the reforested catchment, these responses were much smaller and only occurred during large events. Streamflow was a mixture of groundwater and precipitation for both catchments, but the maximum event water contributions to streamflow were much larger for the degraded grassland than for the reforested catchment. The differences in the event water contributions and timing of the streamflow responses were observed across all event sizes, including a large tropical storm. Together with the low saturated hydraulic conductivity in the degraded catchment, these results suggest that overland flow occurred more frequently and was much more widespread in the degraded grassland than in the reforested catchment. We, therefore, conclude that reforestation of a degraded grassland can change the dominant flow pathways and restore the hydrological functioning if the forest soil is allowed to develop over a sufficiently long period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4128-4148
Number of pages21
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • electrical conductivity
  • hydrograph separation
  • runoff generation mechanisms
  • space-for-time substitution
  • stable isotopes
  • tropical reforestation


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