STILLWATER, Okla. In a first to the state of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University's Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources will receive $226,890 in grant funding from the U.S. Geological Survey, provided through the Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute.
OWRRI and USGS officials are funding the division study on eastern redcedar encroachment and the water cycle in the tallgrass prairie, two key elements of ecosystem health for Oklahoma.
And with good reason: Water is among the world's most vital resources, reminds Chris Zou, assistant professor with the OSU department of natural resource ecology and management and principal investigator of the study.
"Oklahoma is one of the key U.S. locales where woodlands meet grasslands," he said. "Changes in vegetation have a great effect on water cycles and the recharging of groundwater supplies. This, in turn, affects every aspect of water use, be it by people or wildlife."
In the Great Plains, tallgrass prairie is rapidly transforming to woodland largely because of the encroachment of eastern redcedar trees.
"Of Oklahoma's 17 million acres of rangeland including prairie, 8 million acres are currently overgrown with eastern redcedar," said Dave Engle, holder of OSU's Thomas E. Berry Endowed Chair in Integrated Water Research and Extension. "That number is increasing at an alarming rate, equivalent to 762 acres a day."
One of the vital elements of the study will be to determine specific data about how the encroachment of eastern redcedar trees in tallgrass prairie alters the dynamic response between precipitation and water loss through vegetation canopy interception.
Another important aspect will be to determine more exactly how redcedar encroachment increases root depth and alters seasonal water-use patterns.
"For example, it is known that redcedar trees use water year-round," Zou said. "However, the degree of difference in wate
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Oklahoma State University