In the Mediterranean climate of the Sierra Nevada, snow pack persists well into the spring after precipitation has effectively stopped. With the onset of summer and continued dry conditions, snow quickly melts, and soil profiles dry out as shrubs and trees deplete the available soil moisture. A better understanding of surface and subsurface water budgets in remote landscapes warrants closer monitoring of moisture and temperature variability in near surfaces soils. As part of the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (CZO), investigators from University of California deployed approximately 150 soil moisture, water potential and temperature sensors within the root structure of an individual white fir tree (Abies concolor) located in the Kings River Experimental Watershed (KREW). These sensors complement sap flow measurements in the trunk, stem water potential measurements in the canopy, and snow depth measurements, to enable the Southern Sierra CZO researchers to investigate how soil environmental stresses (water, temperature, and nutrients) impact forest ecosystems across the rain-to-snow-dominated transition zone. We captured the dynamics of the soil profile desiccation at various depths beneath the snow pack as soils went from wet to very dry conditions. Monitoring of sap flow and periodic leaf water potential measurements, we tracked the activity of the tree as it responded to changing available moisture in the root zone. All sensors were reactive to moisture and temperature variations and showed dynamic responses to precipitation, snow melt and changes in vegetative demand. We demonstrate here the initial phase of a multi-year deployment of soil moisture sensors as a critical integrator of hydrologic/ biotic interaction in a forested catchment as part of a wider effort to document changing ecosystem response to changing environmental inputs.
Hartsough, P.C., Malazian, A., Kamai, T., Roudneva, E., Hopmans, J.W., (2009): Soil Moisture Tree Water Status Dynamics in a Mid-Latitude Montane Forest, Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory, CA . Fall meeting, American Geophysical Union, December 2009. 90(52) Abstract H33A-0844. .
Critical Zone Tree 2 - Soil Moisture, Soil Temperature, Electrical Conductivity, Matric Potential, Sap Flow (2010-2012)
10 components • Providence Creek Headwater Catchments (1660 - 2115 m elevation) • Hydrology, Biology / Ecology • Peter Hartsough; Jan Hopmans