Articles | Volume 16, issue 8
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 2883–2892, 2012

Special issue: Water, climate, and vegetation: ecohydrology in a changing...

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 2883–2892, 2012

Research article 22 Aug 2012

Research article | 22 Aug 2012

Soil moisture and evapotranspiration of different land cover types in the Loess Plateau, China

S. Wang, B. J. Fu, G. Y. Gao, X. L. Yao, and J. Zhou S. Wang et al.
  • State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 2871, Beijing 100085, P. R. China

Abstract. We studied the impacts of re-vegetation on soil moisture dynamics and evapotranspiration (ET) of five land cover types in the Loess Plateau in northern China. Soil moisture and temperature variations under grass (Andropogon), subshrub (Artemisia scoparia), shrub (Spiraea pubescens), plantation forest (Robinia pseudoacacia), and crop (Zea mays) vegetation were continuously monitored during the growing season of 2011. There were more than 10 soil moisture pulses during the period of data collection. Surface soil moisture of all of the land cover types showed an increasing trend in the rainy season. Soil moisture under the corn crop was consistently higher than the other surfaces. Grass and subshrubs showed an intermediate moisture level. Grass had slightly higher readings than those of subshrub most of the time. Shrubs and plantation forests were characterized by lower soil moisture readings, with the shrub levels consistently being slightly higher than those of the forests. Despite the greater post-rainfall loss of moisture under subshrub and grass vegetation than forests and shrubs, subshrub and grass sites exhibit a higher soil moisture content due to their greater soil retention capacity in the dry period. The daily ET trends of the forests and shrub sites were similar and were more stable than those of the other types. Soils under subshrubs acquired and retained soil moisture resources more efficiently than the other cover types, with a competitive advantage in the long term, representing an adaptive vegetation type in the study watershed. The interactions between vegetation and soil moisture dynamics contribute to structure and function of the ecosystems studied.