Linking subsurface structures to their functions in determining hydrologic processes, such as soil moisture dynamics, subsurface flow patterns, and discharge behaviours, is a key to understanding and modelling hydrological systems. Geophysical techniques provide a non-invasive approach to investigate this form-function dualism of subsurface hydrology at the field scale, because they are effective in visualizing subsurface structure and monitoring the distribution of water. In this study, we used time-lapse ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to compare the hydrologic responses of two contrasting soils in the Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory. By integrating time-lapse GPR with artificial water injection, we observed distinct flow patterns in the two soils: 1) in the deep Rushtown soil (over 1.5 m depth to bedrock) located in a concave hillslope, a lateral preferential flow network extending as far as 2 m downslope was identified above a less permeable layer and via a series of connected macropores; whereas 2) in the shallow Weikert soil (~0.3 m depth to saprock) located in a planar hillslope, vertical infiltration into the permeable fractured shale dominated the flow field, while the development of lateral preferential flow along the hillslope was restrained. At the Weikert soil site, the addition of brilliant blue dye to the water injection followed by in situ excavation supported GPR interpretation that only limited lateral preferential flow formed along the soil-saprock interface. Moreover, seasonally repeated GPR surveys indicated different patterns of profile moisture distribution in the two soils that in comparison with the dry season, a dense layer within the BC horizon in the deep Rushtown soil prevented vertical infiltration in the wet season, leading to the accumulation of soil moisture above this layer; whereas, in the shallow Weikert soil, water infiltrated into saprock in wet seasons, building up water storage within the fractured bedrock (i.e., the rock moisture). Results of this study demonstrated the strong interplay between soil structures and subsurface hydrologic behaviors, and time-lapse GPR is an effective method to establish such a relationship under the field conditions.
Guo, L., Lin, H., Nyquist, J., Toran, L., Mount, G. (2017): Subsurface Hydrologic Processes Revealed by Time-lapse GPR in Two Contrasting Soils in the Shale Hills CZO. 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, New Orleans, LA, 11-15 Dec .
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.