The impact of broadleaved woodland on water resources in lowland UK: III. The results from Black Wood and Bridgets Farm compared with those from other woodland and grassland sites
In the United Kingdom the planting of broadleaved woodland has led to concerns about the impact on water resources. Comparative studies, typically using soil water measurements, have been established to compare water use of broadleaved woodland and grassland. The diversity of outcomes from these studies makes it difficult to make any consistent prediction of the hydrological impact of afforestation. Most studies have shown greater drying of soils under broadleaved woodland than under grass. However, two studies in a beech wood growing on shallow soils above chalk at Black Wood, Micheldever, Hampshire showed little overall difference between broadleaved woodland and grass, either in soil water abstraction or in evaporation. Two factors are thought to contribute to the different results from Black Wood. It is known that evaporation can be considerably enhanced at the edges of woodlands or in small areas of woodlands. The studies at Black Wood were made well within a large area of fairly uniform woodland. Other studies in which a difference occurred in soil drying between broadleaved woodland and grass used measurements made in small areas of woodlands or at woodland edges. Another important difference between comparison of woodland at Black Wood and grassland growing nearby, also on shallow soils above Chalk, compared to other broadleaved woodland/grass comparisons, growing on other geologies, is the influence of the Chalk. Although vegetation such as grass (and woodland) does not populate the chalk profusely with roots, water can be removed from the Chalk by the roots which proliferate at the soil/chalk interface and which can generate upward water movement within the Chalk. Published work showed that only in a very dry summer did the evaporation from grass growing on shallow soils above chalk fall below potential. In broadleaved woodland/grass comparisons on non-chalky soils it is possible that moisture deficits in the soil below the grass may reach critical levels and reduce evaporation below that of the woodland with which it is being compared.