Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
Solid Earth, 6, 595–608, 2015
Solid Earth, 6, 595–608, 2015

Research article 28 May 2015

Research article | 28 May 2015

Responses of vertical soil moisture to rainfall pulses and land uses in a typical loess hilly area, China

Y. Yu1, W. Wei1, L. D. Chen1, F. Y. Jia1,2, L. Yang1, H. D. Zhang1,2, and T. J. Feng1,2 Y. Yu et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
  • 2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 10049, China

Abstract. Soil moisture plays a key role in vegetation restoration and ecosystem stability in arid and semiarid regions. The response of soil moisture to rainfall pulses is an important hydrological process, which is strongly influenced by land use during the implementation of vegetation restoration. In this study, vertical soil moisture variations of woodland (Pinus tabulaeformis), native grassland (Stipa bungeana), shrubland (Hippophea rhamnoides), cropland (Triticum aestivum) and artificial grassland (Onobrychis viciaefolia) in five soil profiles were monitored in a typical loess hilly area during the 2010 growing season. The results demonstrated that rainfall pulses directly affected soil moisture variation. A multi-peak pattern of soil moisture appeared during the growing season, notably in the surface soil layer. Meanwhile, the response of each vegetation type to rainfall was inconsistent, and a time-lag effect before reaching the peak value was detected, following each heavy rainfall event. The response duration of soil moisture, however, varied markedly with the size of rainfall events. Furthermore, higher soil water content was detected in grassland and shrubland. Woodland was characterized by relatively lower soil moisture values throughout the investigation period. Our research suggests that vegetation restoration efforts should give priority to grassland and shrubland at the research site. We suggest that more studies should be focused on the characteristics of community structure and spatial vegetation distribution on soil moisture dynamics, particularly within the grass and shrub ecosystems.