Use of Tree Plantations in Water-table Drawdown and Combating Soil Salinity

Part of the Advances in Agroforestry book series (ADAG, volume 13)


The prime requirement for rehabilitating saline waterlogged soils is reverting the flux of water for leaching salts beyond active root zone. Though engineering approaches like surface and sub-surface drainage have been standardised for controlling salt and water balance, their adoption is constrained by high capital investment and associated operational and maintenance problems in addition to drainage water disposal. As an alternative, use of tree plantations (often referred as ‘biodrainage’) has been advocated without long-term verification. The main force behind this notion is water profligate nature of some tree species and their deep root systems. However, it is now clear that the water use by trees varies with specific site conditions defining soil type, evaporative demands and even the depth to groundwater and its salinity. Under favourable conditions (sandy and deep soils, shallow water table of good quality, cooler climate), trees may draw soil water at about 0.8 × Epan, but these may reduce to about 0.2 × Epan under less optimal conditions (clayey and shallow soils, saline/deeper water table, hot and dry summer, etc.). Nevertheless, the major advantage of tree plantations in waterlogging control can be viewed in terms of year-round water with drawls and that too from rain-recharged soil profiles/the shallow water tables. The tree plantations, especially of Eucalyptus species, have been shown to drawdown water table, of course their spatial extent being governed by tree transpiration rates and hydraulic characters of soils. But for trees to be effective, land requirements have been estimated to be very high (10–50 % of the total land), the other issue being the salt accumulation, once the deeper-rooted trees skim out the water. All these factors indicate towards the myths being created for biodrainage without sufficient data and experimentation to support the notion. The alternatives being proposed are shifting shelterbelts instead of block plantation in recharge/upland discharge area, boundary plantations in flat land and even integrating sub-surface drainage and tree plantations. These issues call for GIS/remote sensing-based prognosis of hot spot areas to be covered under tree plantations. Further, the modelling efforts to predict salinity with proposed plantations should help in afforestation designs and highlight other management options so as to promote the bio-management of waterlogged and saline soils.


Water Table Groundwater Level Eucalyptus Plantation Water Table Level Soil Water Storage 
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Copyright information

© Springer India 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of Abiotic Stress ManagementBaramati, PuneIndia
  2. 2.Central Soil Salinity Research InstituteKarnalIndia

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