Cite as:
Bauer, F. (2011): Water flow paths in soils of an undisturbed and landslide affected mature montane rainforest in South Ecuador University of Bayreuth, department of soil physics (Prof. Dr. Bernd Huwe), phd thesis

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Title: Water flow paths in soils of an undisturbed and landslide affected mature montane rainforest in South Ecuador
Short Name: Water flow paths in a montane rainforest in South Ecuador
FOR816dw ID: 937
Publication Date: 2011-02-07
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Resource Owner(s):
Individual: Folkert Bauer
The number of previous hydrological studies concerning water flow paths in tropical montane rainforest is small. However, due to the increasing pressure of deforestation and land use change comprehensive knowledge of these natural ecosystems is needed if sustainable land use strategies should keep negative effects of human impacts on water flow paths as low as possible. In this context, present work addresses the identification, characterisation, and modelling of water flow paths in soils of an undisturbed and landslide affected natural Andean forest ecosystem in the south of Ecuador whose deforestation rate is one of the highest in South America. In an investigation area situated in the Andes of South Ecuador, in gentler slopes and altitudes above 2100 m ASL mainly Stagnosols and Histosols with stagnic colour pattern and low to negligible rock fragment content prevail. With increasing altitude the abundance of these soils increase, while the presence of Cambisols and Regosols is most pronounced below 2100 m ASL and clearly correlated with the slope angle. Therefore, these soils were mainly encountered in steeper, particularly landslide affected sites often resembling a melange of fine soil and high contents of rock fragments. Aside the investigation of the influence of the rock fragment content on soil hydrological- and physical parameters such as the relationship between rock fragment content and saturated hydraulic conductivity of the soil, present study aims particularly to investigate flow paths of water in soils of landslide affected and unaffected hillslopes. Therefore, we employed conventional field- and laboratory methods, dye tracer experiments including an appropriate image processing technique, as well as statistical models. Results show that both rock fragment content and bulk density control significantly, but not largely the saturated hydraulic conductivity of the mineral soils. Dye tracer experiments and soil parameters document a deeper percolation in the landslide affected hillslopes than in the landslide unaffected hillslopes, where we found preferential flow in root channels with low soil matrix interaction as dominant flow mechanism. A surface near quasi impervious layer along the interface between topsoil and subsoil limits percolation of the water giving the prerequisites of a lateral shallow subsurface flow along the interface between topsoil and organic layer. This is in line with previous studies performed in the same investigation area which already proved indirectly the existence of this flow. However, in none of these studies the shallow subsurface flow was assigned to certain slope inclinations or altitudes. Due to a recently published digital soil map and the results we obtained from the landslide unaffected sites, we know that particularly in hillslopes of less than 30 ° above 2100 m ASL prerequisites are given for spatially extended shallow subsurface flow. However, even
if these prerequisites are not evident for the landslide affected hillslopes, we cannot exclude the possibility of shallow subsurface flow occurrence here since soil cover of the steep terrain is relatively shallow while rainfall is high throughout the year. Therefore, and given that key parameters such as permeability of subsoil and bedrock, interception and evaporation remain unclear or were investigated exclusively such as the spatial variability of the saturated hydraulic conductivity, we conducted a series of virtual experiments in order to assess the potential occurrence of shallow subsurface flow in Cambisols below 2100 m ASL. In these experiments we also included the organic layer being highly abundant in the investigation area, whose hydraulic parameters were estimated by means of inverse numerical modelling. The virtual experiments were based on a two dimensional finite element model representing a steep forested hillslope transect of ~54 m length. Aside soil properties, evapotranspiration and interception, the model included the spatial variability of the saturated hydraulic conductivity, the pressure head and their spatial trends. The results of virtual experiment series show that a sound evidence of the key parameters aforementioned is obligate if process conceptualisation regarding shallow subsurface flow generation, but also landslide initiation, solute and matter transport is in the spotlight.
| parametrization | tropical montane forest | organic layer | inverse modeling | hydrus 1d |
Literature type specific fields:
Degree: phd
Degree Institution: University of Bayreuth, department of soil physics (Prof. Dr. Bernd Huwe)
Total Pages: 150
Metadata Provider:
Individual: Bernhard Runzheimer
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