Soil moisture dynamics at high temporal resolution in a semiarid Mediterranean watershed with scattered tree cover

Javier Lozano-Parra*, N.L.M.B. van Schaik, Susanne Schnabel, Álvaro Gómez-Gutiérrez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Subsurface water flows play a key role in the distribution of water and solutes and thereby in the water availability for plants. However, the characterization of different flow processes (i.e.matrix and preferential flow), the frequency and factors that cause them, is relatively rare. This characterization enables a better understanding of spatio-temporal variability of water resources and allows for the design of models to be improved. Using a method based on the time derivative of soil moisture variation known as maximum wetting slope, types of soil wetting processes were classified and quantified. For this, capacitance sensors, which registered the volumetric water content at high temporal resolution (30min) for more than two hydrological years, were installed at different depths and placed in soil moisture stations with different vegetation covers, lithology and topographic position. Results indicated that there is a general behaviour or pattern of soil moisture dynamics in the catchment with a dominant occurrence of slower soil wetting processes (>50%), caused by matrix flows, and a low occurrence of those faster processes (<30%), originated by preferential flows. Nevertheless, when the total volume of water is considered, preferential flow becomes the dominant process, so that the ecological role of both flow types becomes prominent in water-limited environments. Statistical multivariate analyses based on data-mining techniques proved that although both flow types depend on variables associated with precipitation and antecedent soil moisture conditions, faster soil wetting processes are mainly related to variables such as rainfall intensity and topography, while slower soil wetting processes are related to flow velocity, soils or vegetation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1170
Number of pages16
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Capacitive sensors
  • High temporal resolution
  • MARS
  • Soil moisture dynamics
  • Water-limited environment

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