Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (6): 949-968.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1764-1

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Influence of canopy and topographic position on soil moisture response to rainfall in a hilly catchment of Three Gorges Reservoir Area, China

LIU Muxing1,2, WANG Qiuyue1, GUO Li2,*(), YI Jun1, LIN Henry2, ZHU Qing3, FAN Bihang2, ZHANG Hailin1   

  1. 1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
    2. Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
    3. State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, CAS, Nanjing 210008, China
  • Received:2019-09-20 Accepted:2020-03-05 Online:2020-06-25 Published:2020-08-25
  • Contact: GUO Li
  • About author:Liu Muxing (1979–), Professor, specialized in hydropedology and soil physics. E-mail: liumuxing@mail.
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(No.41771261);National Natural Science Foundation of China(No.41601215);Hubei Province Natural Science Foundation of China(No.2015CFA141);Hubei Province Natural Science Foundation of China(No.2016CFA027);Hubei Province Natural Science Foundation of China(No.2019CFB766);Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities(No.CCNU18QN002);Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities(No.CCNU19TS001)


Rainfall provides essential water resource for vegetation growth and acts as driving force for hydrologic process, bedrock weathering and nutrient cycle in the steep hilly catchment. But the effects of rainfall features, vegetation types, topography, and also their interactions on soil water movement and soil moisture dynamics are inadequately quantified. During the coupled wet and dry periods of the year 2018 to 2019, time-series soil moisture was monitored with 5-min interval resolution in a hilly catchment of the Three Gorges Reservoir Area in China. Three hillslopes covered with evergreen forest (EG), secondary deciduous forest mixed with shrubs (SDFS) and deforested pasture (DP) were selected, and two monitoring sites with five detected depths were established at upslope and downslope position, respectively. Several parameters expressing soil moisture response to rainfall event were evaluated, including wetting depth, cumulative rainfall amount and lag time before initial response, maximum increase of soil water storage, and transform ratio of rainwater to soil water. The results indicated that rainfall amount is the dominant rainfall variable controlling soil moisture response to rainfall event. No soil moisture response occurred when rainfall amounts was <8 mm, and all the deepest monitoring sensors detected soil moisture increase when total rainfall amounts was >30 mm. In the wet period, the cumulative rainfall amount to trigger surface soil moisture response in EG-up site was significantly higher than in other five sites. However, no significant difference in cumulative rainfall amount to trigger soil moisture response was observed among all study sites in dry period. Vegetation canopy interception reduced the transform ratio of rainwater to soil water, with a higher reduction in vegetation growth period than in other period. Also, interception of vegetation canopy resulted in a larger accumulated rainfall amount and a longer lag time for initiating soil moisture response to rainfall. Generally, average cumulative rainfall amount for initiating soil moisture response during dry period of all sites (3.5-5.6 mm) were less than during wet period (5.7-19.7 mm). Forests captured more infiltration water compared with deforested pasture, showing the larger increments of both soil water storage for the whole soil profile and volumetric soil water content at 10 cm depth on two forest slopes. Topography dominated soil subsurface flow, proven by the evidences that less rainfall amount and less time was needed to trigger soil moisture response and also larger accumulated soil water storage increment in downslope site than in corresponding upslope site during heavy rainfall events.

Key words: interception, infiltration, lateral flow, soil water storage, forest, pasture