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Responses of soil moisture in different land cover types to rainfall events in a re-vegetation catchment area of the Loess Plateau, China

Wang, Shuai, Fu, Bojie, Gao, Guangyao, Liu, Yu, Zhou, Ji
Catena 2013 v.101 pp. 122-128
Andropogon, Artemisia scoparia, Robinia pseudoacacia, Spiraea, Zea mays, grasses, growing season, infiltration rate, plant available water, plant communities, rain, shrubs, soil water content, soil water recharge, trees, vegetation types, watersheds, wetting front, China
Implementation of the Grain-for-Green project has resulted in significantly increased vegetative cover on the Loess Plateau of China during the past few decades. The plant communities influence soil moisture recharge and usage processes, particularly the input process, which is directly related to transformation of the limited precipitation into available soil water in the semi-arid Loess Plateau. A study to measure soil moisture dynamics of typical land cover types associated with precipitation events was conducted in a re-vegetated catchment area. Smart probes were inserted at 6 different depths below the ground surface under grass (Andropogon), subshrub (Artemisia scoparia), shrub (Spiraea pubescens), tree (Robinia pseudoacacia), and crop (Zea mays) vegetation to record volumetric soil moisture at 10-minute intervals for a period of 60days during the growing season in 2011. The advance of the wetting front and total accumulated infiltrated water were measured. The rainfall events were sporadic with widely different intensities, and the soil moisture was replenished mainly by 3–4 heavy precipitation events during July and August. The mean soil moisture content profiles of the 5 vegetation types can be ordered as crop>grass>subshrub>tree>shrub and this relationship displayed time stability. The different land cover types clearly influenced the water infiltration and water input amounts in the re-vegetated area. The subshrub site showed the highest total infiltration amount (164mm) with precipitation (227mm) during the study period. The grass site had an infiltration amount of 156mm. The tree site had a total precipitation of 154mm and an infiltration amount of 97mm. The infiltration amount was 136mm for the shrub site and was the lowest (83mm) for the crop site. Natural grasses displayed a rapid infiltration rate and the wetting front was able to reach a greater depth.