Multi-scale controls on spatial patterns of soil water storage in the hummocky regions of North America
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The intensification of land-water management due to agriculture, forestry, and urbanization is a global phenomenon increasing the pressure on world’s water resources and threatening water security in North America. The Prairie Pothole Region of North America covers approximately 775,000 km2 and contains millions of wetlands that serve important hydrological and ecological functions. The unique hummocky topography and the variable effect of different processes contribute to high spatio-temporal variability in soil water, posing major challenges in hydrological studies. The objectives of this study were to a) examine the spatial pattern of soil water storage and its scale and location characteristics; and b) to identify its controls at multiple scales. Soil water content at 20 cm intervals down to 140 cm was measured along a transect extending over several knoll–depression cycles in a hummocky landscape. High water storage in depressions and low water storage on the knolls created a spatial pattern that was inversely related to elevation. Spatial patterns were strongly similar within any given season (intra-season rank correlation coefficient as high as 0.99), moreso than between the same season over different years (inter-annual rank correlation coefficient as high as 0.97). Less similar spatial patterns were observed between different seasons (inter-season rank correlation coefficients as high as 0.90). While the intra-season and inter-annual spatial patterns were similar at scales >18 m, the inter-season spatial patterns were similar at much large scales (>72 m). This may be due to the variations in landform elements and micro-topography. The similarity at scales >72 m were present at any time and depth. However, small- and medium-scale spatial patterns changed with depth and with season due to a change in the hydrological processes. The relative dominance of a given set of processes operating both within a season and for the same season over different years yielded strong intra-season and inter-annual similarity at scales >18 m. Moreover, similarity was stronger with increasing depth, and was thought to be due to the dampening effect of overlying soil layers that are more dynamic. Similarity of spatial patterns over time helps to identify the location that best represents the field averaged soil water and improves sampling efficiency. Change in the similarity of scales of spatial pattern helps identify the change in sampling domain as controlled by hydrological processes. The scale information can be used to improve prediction for use in environmental management and modeling of different surface and subsurface hydrological processes. The similarity of spatial pattern between the surface and subsurface layers help make inferences on deep layer hydrological processes as well as groundwater dynamics from surface water measurements.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorSi, Bing C.
CommitteeFarrell, Richard E.; Siciliano, Steven D.; Bedard-Haughn, Angela K.; Guo, Xulin; Carey, Sean
Prairie pothole region
soil water storage