Hydrologic Science & Engineering
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Seismic refraction data from Gordon Gulch, Boulder Creek Critical Zone ObservatoryWe investigate the relationship between slope aspect, subsurface hydrology, and critical zone (CZ) structure in a montane watershed by examining the orientations of foliation and fracturing and thicknesses of weathered material on north- and south-facing aspects. Weathering models predict that north-facing slopes will have thicker and more porous saprolite due to colder, wetter conditions, which exacerbate frost damage and weathering along open fractures. Using borehole imaging and seismic refraction, we compare the seismic velocity and anisotropy of north- and south-facing slopes with the orientation of fracturing. Fracturing occurs in the same dominant orientations across slopes, but the north-facing slope has more developed and slightly thicker soil as predicted, while the south-facing slope has thicker and more intact saprolite that is highly anisotropic in the direction of fracturing. Our data support hypotheses that subsurface flow is matrix-driven on north-facing slopes and preferential on south-facing slopes. We attribute thicker saprolite on south-facing slopes to heterogeneity induced by competition between infiltration, topographic stress, and permafrost during Pleistocene glaciation. We provide new constraints on subsurface architecture to inform future models of CZ evolution.
Transpiration-groundwater data from Mares et al. (2016)We investigate how soil moisture is affected by daily transpiration using time-lapse electrical resistivity imaging (ERI) on a highly instrumented ponderosa pine and the surrounding soil throughout the growing season. By comparing sap flow measurements to the ERI data, we find that periods of high sap flow within the diel cycle are aligned with decreases in ground electrical conductivity and soil moisture due to drying of the soil during moisture uptake. As sap flow decreases during the night, the ground conductivity increases as the soil moisture is replenished. The mean and variance of the ground conductivity decreases into the summer dry season, indicating drier soil and smaller diel fluctuations in soil moisture as the summer progresses. Sap flow did not significantly decrease through the summer suggesting use of a water source deeper than 60 cm to maintain transpiration during times of shallow soil moisture depletion. ERI captured spatiotemporal variability of soil moisture on daily and seasonal timescales. ERI data on the tree showed a diel cycle of conductivity, interpreted as changes in water content due to transpiration, but changes in sap flow throughout the season could not be interpreted from ERI inversions alone due to daily temperature changes.