Quantifying spatiotemporal dynamics of root-zone soil water in a mixed forest on subtropical coastal sand dune using surface ERT and spatial TDR

Junliang Fan, Alexander Scheuermann, Adrien Guyot, Thomas Baumgartl, David Anthony Lockington

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We jointly used surface electrical resistivity tomography (surface ERT) and spatial time domain reflectometry (spatial TDR) to quantify spatial patterns and seasonal dynamics of root-zone soil water under three contrasting vegetation covers in a sand dune forest of subtropical coastal Australia. We wanted to obtain a better understanding of the applicability of both techniques in these environments as well as investigate vegetation-soil water interactions. Soil temperature and topographic changes were taken into account in soil resistivity interpretation. The results demonstrated the capability of both surface ERT and spatial TDR to spatially monitor root-zone soil water dynamics, with root mean square error (RMSE) <0.018cm3cm-3 and absolute deviation <0.034cm3cm-3 between gravimetrically derived water content and those derived by the two geophysical techniques. Soil water was depleted to low levels during the dry season but quickly replenished with onset of the wet season. Soil water content profiles revealed obvious differences in water dynamics of the dune sands under different vegetation covers, with highest infiltration and deep drainage under the grassland compared with tree cover. The spatial variation in soil water content due to rainfall interception by trees, root water uptake and preferential infiltration associated with stemflow could be detected by the joint use of surface ERT and spatial TDR. We conclude that surface ERT can be an effective method for quantifying two-dimensional root-zone soil water dynamics and understanding the hydrological processes in these sand dune environments, if complemented by the one-dimensional high-resolution soil water measurements from spatial TDR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-488
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Coastal sand dune forest
  • Rainfall redistribution
  • Root water uptake
  • Spatial time domain reflectometry (spatial TDR)
  • Surface electrical resistivity tomography (surface ERT)

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