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Method to measure soil matrix infiltration in forest soil

Zhang, Jing, Lei, Tingwu, Qu, Liqin, Chen, Ping, Gao, Xiaofeng, Chen, Chao, Yuan, Lili, Zhang, Manliang, Su, Guangxu
Journal of hydrology 2017 v.552 pp. 241-248
conservation practices, field experimentation, forest soils, forests, hydrology, infiltrometers, land use, macropores, models, nylon, preferential flow, soil profiles, tracer techniques, water conservation, watersheds, China
Infiltration of water into forest soil commonly involves infiltration through the matrix body and preferential passages. Determining the matrix infiltration process is important in partitioning water infiltrating into the soil through the soil body and macropores to evaluate the effects of soil and water conservation practices on hillslope hydrology and watershed sedimentation. A new method that employs a double-ring infiltrometer was applied in this study to determine the matrix infiltration process in forest soil. Field experiments were conducted in a forest field on the Loess Plateau at Tianshui Soil and Water Conservation Experimental Station. Nylon cloth was placed on the soil surface in the inner ring and between the inner and outer rings of infiltrometers. A thin layer of fine sands were placed onto the nylon cloth to shelter the macropores and ensure that water infiltrates the soil through the matrix only. Brilliant Blue tracers were applied to examine the exclusion of preferential flow occurrences in the measured soil body. The infiltration process was measured, computed, and recorded through procedures similar to those of conventional methods. Horizontal and vertical soil profiles were excavated to check the success of the experiment and ensure that preferential flow did not occur in the measured soil column and that infiltration was only through the soil matrix. The infiltration processes of the replicates of five plots were roughly the same, thereby indicating the feasibility of the methodology to measure soil matrix infiltration. The measured infiltration curves effectively explained the transient process of soil matrix infiltration. Philip and Kostiakov models fitted the measured data well, and all the coefficients of determination were greater than 0.9. The wetted soil bodies through excavations did not present evidence of preferential flow. Therefore, the proposed method can determine the infiltration process through the forest soil matrix. This method can also be applied to explore matrix infiltration in other land-use types.