Main content area

Improving the estimation of complete field soil water characteristic curves through field monitoring data

Bordoni, M., Bittelli, M., Valentino, R., Chersich, S., Meisina, C.
Journal of hydrology 2017 v.552 pp. 283-305
drying, equations, evapotranspiration, geomorphology, hydrologic cycle, hysteresis, laboratory techniques, models, monitoring, rain, silty soils, soil horizons, soil pore water, soil water characteristic, soil water storage, temperate zones, water content
In this work, Soil Water Characteristic Curves (SWCCs) were reconstructed through simultaneous field measurements of soil pore water pressure and water content. The objective was to evaluate whether field-based monitoring can allow for the improvement of the accuracy in SWCCs estimation with respect to the use of laboratory techniques. Moreover, field assessment of SWCCs allowed to: a) quantify the hydrological hysteresis affecting SWCCs through field data; b) analyze the effect of different temporal resolution of field measures; c) highlight the differences in SWCCs reconstructed for a particular soil during different hydrological years; d) evaluate the reliability of field reconstructed SWCCs, by the comparison between assessed and measured trends of a component of the soil water balance. These aspects were fundamental for assessing the reliability of the field reconstructed SWCCs. Field data at two Italian test-sites were measured. These test-sites were used to evaluate the goodness of field reconstructed SWCCs for soils characterized by different geomorphological, geological, physical and pedological features. Field measured or laboratory measured SWCCs data of 5 soil horizons (3 in a predominantly silty soil, 2 in a predominantly clayey one) were fitted by Van Genuchten model. Different field drying and wetting periods were identified, based on monthly meteorological conditions, in terms of rainfall and evapotranspiration amounts, of different cycles. This method allowed for a correct discrimination of the main drying and the main wetting paths from field data related and for a more reliable quantification of soil hydrological properties with respect to laboratory methodologies. Particular patterns of changes in SWCCs forms along depth could be also identified. Field SWCCs estimation is not affected by the temporal resolution of the acquisition (hours or days), as testified by similar values of Van Genuchten equation fitting parameters. Instead, hourly data may offer a clearer vision of the drying and wetting paths, due to the highest number of experimental data points. Moreover, in temperate climate situations as those of the test-sites, main drying curves and main wetting curves of a particular soil were substantially similar also for different hydrological cycles with peculiar meteorological conditions. SWCCs parameters were implemented in a numerical code (HYDRUS-1D) to simulate soil water storage for different soil horizons. Field reconstructed SWCCs allowed for simulating with a higher precision these trends, confirming the reliability of the reconstructed field curves by a quantitative point of view. Moreover, best results were obtained considering hysteresis in the modeling.