Effects of changing water availability on land use in irrigated mountain oases of Al Jabal Al Akhdar, northern Oman

  • Mohamed Nasser Al-Rawahi Organic Plant Production & Agroecosystems Research in the Tropics & Subtropics (OPATS), University of Kassel, Steinstr. 19, 37213 Witzenhausen
  • Katja Brinkmann Organic Plant Production & Agroecosystems Research in the Tropics & Subtropics (OPATS), University of Kassel, Steinstr. 19, 37213 Witzenhausen
  • Eva Schlecht Animal Husbandry in the Tropics and Subtropics, University of Kassel and Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Steinstr. 19, 37213 Witzenhausen
  • Andreas Buerkert Organic Plant Production & Agroecosystems Research in the Tropics & Subtropics (OPATS), University of Kassel, Steinstr. 19, 37213 Witzenhausen
Keywords: Aflaj, drought mitigation, irrigation water, rainfall, Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Oman

Abstract

In Oman, during the last three decades, agricultural water use and groundwater extraction has dramatically increased to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and major changes in lifestyle. This has triggered agricultural land-use changes which have been poorly investigated. In view of this our study aimed at analysing patterns of shortterm land-use changes (2007-2009) in the five irrigated mountain oases of Ash Sharayjah, Al’Ayn, Al’Aqr, Qasha’ and Masayrat ar Ruwajah situated in the northern Oman Hajar mountains of Al Jabal Al Akhdar where competitive uses of irrigation water are particularly apparent. Comprehensive GIS-based field surveys were conducted over three years to record changes in terrace use in these five oases where farmers have traditionally adapted to rain-derived variations of irrigation water supply, e.g. by leaving agricultural terraces of annual crops uncultivated in drought years. Results show that the area occupied with field crops decreased in the dry years of 2008 and 2009 for all oases. In Ash Sharayjah, terrace areas grown with field crops declined from 4.7 ha (32.4 % of total terrace area) in 2007 to 3.1 ha (21.6 %) in 2008 and 3.0 ha (20.5 %) in 2009. Similarly, the area proportion of field crops shrunk in Al’Ayn, Qasha’ and Masayrat from 35.2, 36.3 and 49.6 % in 2007 to 19.8, 8.5 and 41.3 % in 2009, respectively. In Al’Aqr, the area of field crops slightly increased from 0.3 ha (17.0 %) in 2007 to 0.7 (39.1 %) in 2008, and decreased to 0.5 ha (28.8 %) in 2009. During the same period annual dry matter yields of the cash crop garlic in Ash Sharayjah increased from 16.3 t ha-1 in 2007 to 19.8 t ha-1 in 2008 and 18.3 t ha-1 in 2009, while the same crop yielded only 0.4, 1.6 and 1.1 t ha-1 in Masayrat. In 2009, the total estimated agricultural area of the new town of Sayh Qatanah above the five oases was around 13.5 ha. Our results suggest that scarcity of irrigation water as a result of low precipitation and increased irrigation and home water consumption in the new urban settlements above the five oases have led to major shifts in the land-use pattern and increasingly threaten the centuries-long tradition and drought-resilience of agriculture in the oases of the studied watershed.

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Published
2014-12-11
How to Cite
Al-Rawahi, M. N., Brinkmann, K., Schlecht, E., & Buerkert, A. (2014). Effects of changing water availability on land use in irrigated mountain oases of Al Jabal Al Akhdar, northern Oman. DIE ERDE – Journal of the Geographical Society of Berlin, 145(4), 197-211. https://doi.org/10.12854/erde-145-18
Section
Research articles