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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Göttlein, A; Manderscheid, B: Spatial heterogeneity and temporal dynamics of soil water tension in a mature Norway spruce stand, Hydrological Processes, 12, 417-428 (1998)
In ecosystem research great effort is made on measuring soil water tension, because this is a critical calibration variable for modelling soil water fluxes. In this paper spatial heterogeneity and temporal dynamics of soil water tensions and their consequences for the determination of water fluxes are investigated. Studies were carried out at a Norway spruce stand in the Fichtelgebirge (NE Bavaria). Standard tensiometers were installed at three soil depths (20 each) on the whole experimental plot, as well as 45 micro tensiometers as a dense grid in a small soil pit. Micro tensiometry at the centimeter scale showed, that depending on rain intensity and initial soil water tension even a soil without discernible macro structure may show preferential water infiltration. At the stand scale the variability of soil hydraulic properties and tree root distribution causes a substantial heterogeneity of soil water tension, as observed by standard tensiometers. A functional relationship between increasing spatial heterogeneity of tensiometer readings and increasing soil water tension was found, which was particularly pronounced after longer dry periods. Also at low soil water tension, where spatial heterogeneity was low, the calculation of water fluxes from tensiometer values was critical, due to the fact that small differences in measuring soil water tension resulted in big differences in calculated water fluxes. At high soil water tension in summer spatial heterogeneity of tensiometer readings was extremely high. Because at our experimental site 30% of rain amount in summer falls in events having a precipitation rate greater than 5 mm h-1, preferential water and solute flow was an important phenomenon.

We conclude, that the validation of calculated water fluxes using measured soil water tension at the stand scale is not an appropriate tool, due to measurement difficulties, considerable spatial heterogeneity, especially in dry periods, and the great variability of soil hydraulic properties. Key words: Tensiometry Spatial heterogeneity Temporal dynamics Water flux modelling
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