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Water flux in soil and subsoil on a steep forested slope

Journal of Hydrology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0022-1694(77)90097-x


Abstract Soil analyses, tensiometer, piezometer and precipitation data were used to evaluate water flux in soil and subsoil on a steep forested slope. Although unsaturated flow predominated in the soil during fourteen moderate-size winter storms, discontinuous saturation of upslope subsoil did occur at depths of 110–150 cm after at least 30 mm of rain fell in 12 h or less. This saturation persisted less than 20 h. Very slight changes in soilwater pressure head during storms effected relatively large changes in both magnitude and direction of water flux. Maximum water fluxes in the top meter of soil were 3–4.5 mm/h and maximum flux in the subsoil was 0.5 mm/h, slightly less than the minimum flux in the soil. Between storms, the vertical component of flux at the 10-cm depth was much less than the downslope component but equaled the downslope component during storms. Conversely, vertical components of flux at 70- and 130-cm depths were much less than downslope components during storms but equaled downslope components between storms. Analysis of piezometric levels, discharge from a seep, and streamflow revealed an abrupt decrease in rate of water flux to the lower part of the slope about 10 h after the end of rainfall. This decrease corresponded with nearly complete draining of larger pores that had filled with water during storms. Subsurface flow and channel interception averaged 97 and 3% of storm flow which, in turn, averaged 38% of total storm precipitation. No overland flow was observed.

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