Articles | Volume 16, issue 9
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 3199–3217, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-16-3199-2012

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

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 3199–3217, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-16-3199-2012

Research article 10 Sep 2012

Research article | 10 Sep 2012

Spatial variations of shallow and deep soil moisture in the semi-arid Loess Plateau, China

L. Yang1, W. Wei1, L. Chen1, F. Jia1, and B. Mo2 L. Yang et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100085, China
  • 2Gansu Academy of Forestry Sciences, Lanzhou, 730000, China

Abstract. Soil moisture in deep soil layers is an important relatively stable water resource for vegetation growth in the semi-arid Loess Plateau of China. Characterizing the spatial variations of deep soil moisture with respect to the topographic conditions has significant importance for vegetation restoration. In this study, we focused on analyzing the spatial variations and factors influencing soil moisture content (SMC) in shallow (0–2 m) and deep (2–8 m) soil layers, based on soil moisture observations in the Longtan watershed, Dingxi, Gansu province. The vegetation type of each sampling site for each comparison is same and varies by different positions, gradients, or aspects. The following discoveries were captured: (1) in comparison with shallow SMC, slope position and slope aspect may affect shallow soil moisture more than deep layers, while slope gradient affects both shallow and deep soil moisture significantly. This indicates that a great difference in deep soil hydrological processes between shallow and deep soil moisture remains that can be attributed to the introduced vegetation and topography. (2) A clear negative relationship exists between vegetation growth condition and deep soil moisture, which indicates that plants under different growing conditions may differ in consuming soil moisture, thus causing higher spatial variations in deep soil moisture. (3) The dynamic role of slope position and slope aspect on deep soil moisture has been changed due to large-scale plantation in semi-arid environment. Consequently, vegetation growth conditions and slope gradients may become the key factors dominating the spatial variations in deep soil moisture.