Matching Items (16)

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Soil moisture availability and energetic controls on belowground network complexity and function in arid ecosystems

Description

The explicit role of soil organisms in shaping soil health, rates of pedogenesis, and resistance to erosion has only just recently begun to be explored in the last century. However,

The explicit role of soil organisms in shaping soil health, rates of pedogenesis, and resistance to erosion has only just recently begun to be explored in the last century. However, much of the research regarding soil biota and soil processes is centered on maintaining soil fertility (e.g., plant nutrient availability) and soil structure in mesic- and agro- ecosystems. Despite the empirical and theoretical strides made in soil ecology over the last few decades, questions regarding ecosystem function and soil processes remain, especially for arid areas. Arid areas have unique ecosystem biogeochemistry, decomposition processes, and soil microbial responses to moisture inputs that deviate from predictions derived using data generated in more mesic systems. For example, current paradigm predicts that soil microbes will respond positively to increasing moisture inputs in a water-limited environment, yet data collected in arid regions are not congruent with this hypothesis. The influence of abiotic factors on litter decomposition rates (e.g., photodegradation), litter quality and availability, soil moisture pulse size, and resulting feedbacks on detrital food web structure must be explicitly considered for advancing our understanding of arid land ecology. However, empirical data coupling arid belowground food webs and ecosystem processes are lacking. My dissertation explores the resource controls (soil organic matter and soil moisture) on food web network structure, size, and presence/absence of expected belowground trophic groups across a variety of sites in Arizona.

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Date Created
  • 2014

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Modeling soil moisture dynamics of landscape irrigation in desert cities

Description

The history of outdoor water use in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area has given rise to a general landscape aesthetic and pattern of residential irrigation that seem in discord with

The history of outdoor water use in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area has given rise to a general landscape aesthetic and pattern of residential irrigation that seem in discord with the natural desert environment. While xeric landscaping that incorporates native desert ecology has potential for reducing urban irrigation demand, there are societal and environmental factors that make mesic landscaping, including shade trees and grass lawns, a common choice for residential yards. In either case, there is potential for water savings through irrigation schedules based on fluxes affecting soil moisture in the active plant rooting zone. In this thesis, a point-scale model of soil moisture dynamics was applied to two urban sites in the Phoenix area: one with xeric landscaping, and one with mesic. The model was calibrated to observed soil moisture data from irrigated and non-irrigated sensors, with local daily precipitation and potential evapotranspiration records as model forcing. Simulations were then conducted to investigate effects of irrigation scheduling, plant stress parameters, and precipitation variability on soil moisture dynamics, water balance partitioning, and plant water stress. Results indicated a substantial difference in soil water storage capacity at the two sites, which affected sensitivity to irrigation scenarios. Seasonal variation was critical in avoiding unproductive water losses at the xeric site, and allowed for small water savings at the mesic site by maintaining mild levels of plant stress. The model was also used to determine minimum annual irrigation required to achieve specified levels of plant stress at each site using long-term meteorological records. While the xeric site showed greater potential for water savings, a bimodal schedule consisting of low winter and summer irrigation was identified as a means to conserve water at both sites, with moderate levels of plant water stress. For lower stress levels, potential water savings were found by fixing irrigation depth and seasonally varying the irrigation interval, consistent with municipal recommendations in the Phoenix metropolitan area. These results provide a deeper understanding of the ecohydrologic differences between the two types of landscape treatments, and can assist water and landscape managers in identifying opportunities for water savings in desert urban areas.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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On the Statistical and Scaling Properties of Observed and Simulated Soil Moisture

Description

Soil moisture (θ) is a fundamental variable controlling the exchange of water and energy at the land surface. As a result, the characterization of the statistical properties of θ across

Soil moisture (θ) is a fundamental variable controlling the exchange of water and energy at the land surface. As a result, the characterization of the statistical properties of θ across multiple scales is essential for many applications including flood prediction, drought monitoring, and weather forecasting. Empirical evidences have demonstrated the existence of emergent relationships and scale invariance properties in θ fields collected from the ground and airborne sensors during intensive field campaigns, mostly in natural landscapes. This dissertation advances the characterization of these relations and statistical properties of θ by (1) analyzing the role of irrigation, and (2) investigating how these properties change in time and across different landscape conditions through θ outputs of a distributed hydrologic model. First, θ observations from two field campaigns in Australia are used to explore how the presence of irrigated fields modifies the spatial distribution of θ and the associated scale invariance properties. Results reveal that the impact of irrigation is larger in drier regions or conditions, where irrigation creates a drastic contrast with the surrounding areas. Second, a physically-based distributed hydrologic model is applied in a regional basin in northern Mexico to generate hyperresolution θ fields, which are useful to conduct analyses in regions and times where θ has not been monitored. For this aim, strategies are proposed to address data, model validation, and computational challenges associated with hyperresolution hydrologic simulations. Third, analyses are carried out to investigate whether the hyperresolution simulated θ fields reproduce the statistical and scaling properties observed from the ground or remote sensors. Results confirm that (i) the relations between spatial mean and standard deviation of θ derived from the model outputs are very similar to those observed in other areas, and (ii) simulated θ fields exhibit the scale invariance properties that are consistent with those analyzed from aircraft-derived estimates. The simulated θ fields are then used to explore the influence of physical controls on the statistical properties, finding that soil properties significantly affect spatial variability and multifractality. The knowledge acquired through this dissertation provides insights on θ statistical properties in regions and landscape conditions that were never investigated before; supports the refinement of the calibration of multifractal downscaling models; and contributes to the improvement of hyperresolution hydrologic modeling.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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Temperature effect on unsaturated hydraulic properties of two fine-grained soils and its influence on moisture movement under an airfield test facility

Description

The influence of temperature on soil engineering properties is a major concern in the design of engineering systems such as radioactive waste disposal barriers, ground source heat pump systems and

The influence of temperature on soil engineering properties is a major concern in the design of engineering systems such as radioactive waste disposal barriers, ground source heat pump systems and pavement structures. In particular, moisture redistribution under pavement systems might lead to changes in unbound material stiffness that will affect pavement performance. Accurate measurement of thermal effects on unsaturated soil hydraulic properties may lead to reduction in design and construction costs. This thesis presents preliminary results of an experimental study aimed at determining the effect of temperature on the soil water characteristic curve (SWCC) and the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function (kunsat). Pressure plate devices with volume change control were used to determine the SWCC and the instantaneous profile method was used to obtain the kunsat function. These properties were measured on two fine-grained materials subjected to controlled temperatures of 5oC, 25oC and 40oC. The results were used to perform a sensitivity analysis of the effect of temperature changes on the prediction of moisture movement under a covered area. In addition, two more simulations were performed where changes in hydraulic properties were done in a stepwise fashion. The findings were compared to field measured water content data obtained on the subgrade material of the FAA William Hughes test facility located in Atlantic City. Results indicated that temperature affects the unsaturated hydraulic properties of the two soils used in the study. For the DuPont soil, a soil with high plasticity, it was found that the water retention was higher at low temperatures for suction levels lower than about 10,000 kPa; while the kunsat functions at the three temperatures were not significantly different. For the County soil, a material with medium plasticity, it was found that it holds around 10% more degree of saturation at 5°C than that at 40°C for suction levels higher than about 1,000 kPa; while the hydraulic conductivity at 40°C was at least one order of magnitude higher than that at 5°C, for suction levels higher than 1,000 kPa. These properties were used to perform two types of numerical analyses: a sensitivity analysis and stepwise analysis. Absolute differences between predicted and field measured data were considered to be acceptable, ranging from 4.5% to 9% for all simulations. Overall results show an improvement in predictions when non-isothermal conditions were used over the predictions obtained with isothermal conditions.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Using an ecohydrology model to explore the role of biological soil crusts on soil hydrologic conditions at the Canyonlands Research Station, Utah

Description

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) dominate the soil surface of drylands in the western United States and possess properties thought to influence local hydrology. Little agreement exists, however, on the effects

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) dominate the soil surface of drylands in the western United States and possess properties thought to influence local hydrology. Little agreement exists, however, on the effects of BSCs on runoff, infiltration, and evaporative rates. This study aims to improve the predictive capability of an ecohydrology model in order to understand how BSCs affect the storage, retention, and infiltration of water into soils characteristic of the Colorado Plateau. A set of soil moisture measurements obtained at a climate manipulation experiment near Moab, Utah, are used for model development and testing. Over five years, different rainfall treatments over experimental plots resulted in the development of BSC cover with different properties that influence soil moisture differently. This study used numerical simulations to isolate the relative roles of different BSC properties on the hydrologic response at the plot-scale. On-site meteorological, soil texture and vegetation property datasets are utilized as inputs into a ecohydrology model, modified to include local processes: (1) temperature-dependent precipitation partitioning, snow accumulation and melt, (2) seasonally-variable potential evapotranspiration, (3) plant species-specific transpiration factors, and (4) a new module to account for the water balance of the BSC. Soil, BSC and vegetation parameters were determined from field measurements or through model calibration to the soil moisture observations using the Shuffled Complex Evolution algorithm. Model performance is assessed against five years of soil moisture measurements at each experimental site, representing a wide range of crust cover properties. Simulation experiments were then carried out using the calibrated ecohydrology model in which BSC parameters were varied according to the level of development of the BSC, as represented by the BSC roughness. These results indicate that BSCs act to both buffer against evaporative soil moisture losses by enhancing BSC moisture evaporation and significantly alter the rates of soil water infiltration by reducing moisture storage and increasing conductivity in the BSC. The simulation results for soil water infiltration, storage and retention across a wide range of meteorological events help explain the conflicting hydrologic outcomes present in the literature on BSCs. In addition, identifying how BSCs mediate infiltration and evaporation processes has implications for dryland ecosystem function in the western United States.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Assessing land-atmosphere interactions through distributed footprint sampling at two eddy covariance towers in semiarid ecosystems of the Southwestern U.S

Description

Land-atmosphere interactions of semiarid shrublands have garnered significant scientific interest. One of the main tools used for this research is the eddy covariance (EC) method, which measures fluxes of energy,

Land-atmosphere interactions of semiarid shrublands have garnered significant scientific interest. One of the main tools used for this research is the eddy covariance (EC) method, which measures fluxes of energy, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. EC fluxes can be difficult to interpret due to complexities within the EC footprint (i.e. the surface conditions that contribute to the flux measurements). Most EC studies use a small number of soil probes to estimate the land surface states underlying the measured fluxes, which likely undersamples the footprint-scale conditions, especially in semiarid shrublands which are characterized by high spatial and temporal variability. In this study, I installed a dense network of soil moisture and temperature probe profiles in the footprint region of an EC tower at two semiarid sites: a woody savanna in southern Arizona and a mixed shrubland in southern New Mexico. For data from May to September 2013, I link land surface states to EC fluxes through daily footprints estimated using an analytical model. Novel approaches are utilized to partition evapotranspiration, estimate EC footprint soil states, connect differences in fluxes to footprint composition, and assess key drivers behind soil state variability. I verify the hypothesis that a small number of soil probes poorly estimates the footprint conditions for soil moisture, due to its high spatial variability. Soil temperature, however, behaves more consistently in time and space. As such, distributed surface measurements within the EC footprint allow for stronger ties between evapotranspiration and moisture, but demonstrate no significant improvement in connecting sensible heat flux and temperature. I also find that in these systems vegetation cover appears to have stronger controls on soil moisture and temperature than does soil texture. Further, I explore the influence of footprint vegetation composition on the measured fluxes, which reveals that during the monsoon season evaporative fraction tends to increase with footprint bare soil coverage for the New Mexico site and that the ratio of daily transpiration to evapotranspiration increases with grass coverage at the Arizona site. The thesis results are useful for understanding the land-atmosphere interactions of these ecosystems and for guiding future EC studies in heterogeneous landscapes.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Introducing unsaturated soil mechanics to undergraduate students through the net stress concepts

Description

The purpose of this research was to introduce unsaturated soil mechanics to the undergraduate geotechnical engineering course in a concise and easy to understand manner. Also, it was essential to

The purpose of this research was to introduce unsaturated soil mechanics to the undergraduate geotechnical engineering course in a concise and easy to understand manner. Also, it was essential to develop unsaturated soil mechanics teaching material that merges smoothly into current undergraduate curriculum and with sufficient flexibility for broad adaptation by faculty. The learning material consists of three lecture modules and a laboratory module. The lecture modules introduced soil mechanics for the general 3-phase medium condition with the saturated soil as a special case. The three lecture modules that were developed are (1) the stress state variables for unsaturated soils, (2) soil-water characteristic curves, and (3) axis translation. A PowerPoint presentation was created to present each module in an easy to understand manner so that the students will enjoy the learning material. Along with the lecture modules, a laboratory module was developed that reinforced the key aspects and concepts for unsaturated soil behavior. A laboratory manual was created for the Tempe Pressure Cell and Fredlund SWC-150 device (one-dimensional oedometer pressure plate device) in order to give the instructor and institution a choice of which testing equipment best fits their program. Along with the laboratory manuals, an analysis guide was created to help students with constructing SWCCs from their laboratory. A soil type recommendation was also researched for use in the laboratory module. The soil ensured acceptably short equilibrium times along with a wide range or suction values controllable by both testing equipment (Tempe Pressure Cell and Fredlund SWC-150). A silt type soil material was recommended for the laboratory module. As a part of this research, a smooth transition from unsaturated to saturated condition was demonstrated through laboratory volume change experiments using a silt soil tested in an oedometer-type pressure plate device. Three different experiments were conducted: (1) volume change for unsaturated soils in response to suction and net normal stress change, (2) volume change for saturated soils in response to effective stress change, as determined using unsaturated soils testing equipment, and (3) traditional consolidation tests on saturated soil using a conventional consolidometer device.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Insights on seasonal fluxes in a desert shrubland watershed

Description

The North American Monsoon System (NAMS) contributes ~55% of the annual rainfall in the Chihuahuan Desert during the summer months. Relatively frequent, intense storms during the NAMS increase soil moisture,

The North American Monsoon System (NAMS) contributes ~55% of the annual rainfall in the Chihuahuan Desert during the summer months. Relatively frequent, intense storms during the NAMS increase soil moisture, reduce surface temperature and lead to runoff in ephemeral channels. Quantifying these processes, however, is difficult due to the sparse nature of coordinated observations. In this study, I present results from a field network of rain gauges (n = 5), soil probes (n = 48), channel flumes (n = 4), and meteorological equipment in a small desert shrubland watershed (~0.05 km2) in the Jornada Experimental. Using this high-resolution network, I characterize the temporal and spatial variability of rainfall, soil conditions and channel runoff within the watershed from June 2010 to September 2011, covering two NAMS periods. In addition, CO2, water and energy measurements at an eddy covariance tower quantify seasonal, monthly and event-scale changes in land-atmosphere states and fluxes. Results from this study indicate a strong seasonality in water and energy fluxes, with a reduction in Bowen ratio (B, the ratio of sensible to latent heat fluxes) from winter (B = 14) to summer (B = 3.3). This reduction is tied to shallow soil moisture availability during the summer (s = 0.040 m3/m3) as compared to the winter (s = 0.004 m3/m3). During the NAMS, I analyzed four consecutive rainfall-runoff events to quantify the soil moisture and channel flow responses and how water availability impacted the land-atmosphere fluxes. Spatial hydrologic variations during events occur over distances as short as ~15 m. The field network also allowed comparisons of several approaches to estimate evapotranspiration (ET). I found a more accurate ET estimate (a reduction of mean absolute error by 38%) when using distributed soil moisture data, as compared to a standard water balance approach based on the tower site. In addition, use of spatially-varied soil moisture data yielded a more reasonable relationship between ET and soil moisture, an important parameterization in many hydrologic models. The analyses illustrates the value of high-resolution sampling for quantifying seasonal fluxes in desert shrublands and their improvements in closing the water balance in small watersheds.

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Date Created
  • 2011

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Hillslope scale hydrologic spatial patterns in a patchy Ponderosa pine landscape: insights from distributed hydrologic modeling

Description

Ponderosa pine forests are a dominant land cover type in semiarid montane areas. Water supplies in major rivers of the southwestern United States depend on ponderosa pine forests since these

Ponderosa pine forests are a dominant land cover type in semiarid montane areas. Water supplies in major rivers of the southwestern United States depend on ponderosa pine forests since these ecosystems: (1) receive a significant amount of rainfall and snowfall, (2) intercept precipitation and transpire water, and (3) indirectly influence runoff by impacting the infiltration rate. However, the hydrologic patterns in these ecosystems with strong seasonality are poorly understood. In this study, we used a distributed hydrologic model evaluated against field observations to improve our understandings on spatial controls of hydrologic patterns, appropriate model resolution to simulate ponderosa pine ecosystems and hydrologic responses in the context of contrasting winter to summer transitions. Our modeling effort is focused on the hydrologic responses during the North American Monsoon (NAM), winter and spring periods. In Chapter 2, we utilized a distributed model explore the spatial controls on simulated soil moisture and temporal evolution of these spatial controls as a function of seasonal wetness. Our findings indicate that vegetation and topographic curvature are spatial controls. Vegetation controlled patterns during dry summer period switch to fine-scale terrain curvature controlled patterns during persistently wet NAM period. Thus, a climatic threshold involving rainfall and weather conditions during the NAM is identified when high rainfall amount (such as 146 mm rain in August, 1997) activates lateral flux of soil moisture and frequent cloudy cover (such as 42% cloud cover during daytime of August, 1997) lowers evapotranspiration. In Chapter 3, we investigate the impacts of model coarsening on simulated soil moisture patterns during the NAM. Results indicate that model aggregation quickly eradicates curvature features and its spatial control on hydrologic patterns. A threshold resolution of ~10% of the original terrain is identified through analyses of homogeneity indices, correlation coefficients and spatial errors beyond which the fidelity of simulated soil moisture is no longer reliable. Based on spatial error analyses, we detected that the concave areas (~28% of hillslope) are very sensitive to model coarsening and root mean square error (RMSE) is higher than residual soil moisture content (~0.07 m3/m3 soil moisture) for concave areas. Thus, concave areas need to be sampled for capturing appropriate hillslope response for this hillslope. In Chapter 4, we investigate the impacts of contrasting winter to summer transitions on hillslope hydrologic responses. We use a distributed hydrologic model to generate a consistent set of high-resolution hydrologic estimates. Our model is evaluated against the snow depth, soil moisture and runoff observations over two water years yielding reliable spatial distributions during the winter to summer transitions. We find that a wet winter followed by a dry summer promotes evapotranspiration losses (spatial averaged ~193 mm spring ET and ~ 600 mm summer ET) that dry the soil and disconnect lateral fluxes in the forested hillslope, leading to soil moisture patterns resembling vegetation patches. Conversely, a dry winter prior to a wet summer results in soil moisture increases due to high rainfall and low ET during the spring (spatially averaged 78 mm ET and 232 mm rainfall) and summer period (spatially averaged 147 mm ET and 247 mm rainfall) which promote lateral connectivity and soil moisture patterns with the signature of terrain curvature. An opposing temporal switch between infiltration and saturation excess runoff is also identified. These contrasting responses indicate that the inverse relation has significant consequences on hillslope water availability and its spatial distribution with implications on other ecohydrological processes including vegetation phenology, groundwater recharge and geomorphic development. Results from this work have implications on the design of hillslope experiments, the resolution of hillslope scale models, and the prediction of hydrologic conditions in ponderosa pine ecosystems. In addition, our findings can be used to select future hillslope sites for detailed ecohydrological investigations. Further, the proposed methodology can be useful for predicting responses to climate and land cover changes that are anticipated for the southwestern United States.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Volume change consideration in determining appropriate unsaturated soil properties for geotechnical applications

Description

Unsaturated soil mechanics is becoming a part of geotechnical engineering practice, particularly in applications to moisture sensitive soils such as expansive and collapsible soils and in geoenvironmental applications. The soil

Unsaturated soil mechanics is becoming a part of geotechnical engineering practice, particularly in applications to moisture sensitive soils such as expansive and collapsible soils and in geoenvironmental applications. The soil water characteristic curve, which describes the amount of water in a soil versus soil suction, is perhaps the most important soil property function for application of unsaturated soil mechanics. The soil water characteristic curve has been used extensively for estimating unsaturated soil properties, and a number of fitting equations for development of soil water characteristic curves from laboratory data have been proposed by researchers. Although not always mentioned, the underlying assumption of soil water characteristic curve fitting equations is that the soil is sufficiently stiff so that there is no change in total volume of the soil while measuring the soil water characteristic curve in the laboratory, and researchers rarely take volume change of soils into account when generating or using the soil water characteristic curve. Further, there has been little attention to the applied net normal stress during laboratory soil water characteristic curve measurement, and often zero to only token net normal stress is applied. The applied net normal stress also affects the volume change of the specimen during soil suction change. When a soil changes volume in response to suction change, failure to consider the volume change of the soil leads to errors in the estimated air-entry value and the slope of the soil water characteristic curve between the air-entry value and the residual moisture state. Inaccuracies in the soil water characteristic curve may lead to inaccuracies in estimated soil property functions such as unsaturated hydraulic conductivity. A number of researchers have recently recognized the importance of considering soil volume change in soil water characteristic curves. The study of correct methods of soil water characteristic curve measurement and determination considering soil volume change, and impacts on the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function was of the primary focus of this study. Emphasis was placed upon study of the effect of volume change consideration on soil water characteristic curves, for expansive clays and other high volume change soils. The research involved extensive literature review and laboratory soil water characteristic curve testing on expansive soils. The effect of the initial state of the specimen (i.e. slurry versus compacted) on soil water characteristic curves, with regard to volume change effects, and effect of net normal stress on volume change for determination of these curves, was studied for expansive clays. Hysteresis effects were included in laboratory measurements of soil water characteristic curves as both wetting and drying paths were used. Impacts of soil water characteristic curve volume change considerations on fluid flow computations and associated suction-change induced soil deformations were studied through numerical simulations. The study includes both coupled and uncoupled flow and stress-deformation analyses, demonstrating that the impact of volume change consideration on the soil water characteristic curve and the estimated unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function can be quite substantial for high volume change soils.

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Date Created
  • 2013