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Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 01 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 01 Aug 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems (GI).

A soil moisture monitoring network to characterize karstic recharge and evapotranspiration at five representative sites across the globe

Romane Berthelin1, Michael Rinderer2, Bartolomé Andreo3, Andy Baker4, Daniela Kilian5, Gabriele Leonhardt5, Annette Lotz5, Kurt Lichtenwoehrer5, Matías Mudarra3, Ingrid Y. Padilla6, Fernando Pantoja Agreda6, Rafael Rosolem7, Abel Vale8, and Andreas Hartmann1,7 Romane Berthelin et al.
  • 1Chair of Hydrological Modeling and Water Resources, Freiburg University, Freiburg, 79098, Germany
  • 2Chair of Hydrology, Freiburg University, Freiburg, 79098, Germany
  • 3Department of Geology and Centre of Hydrogeology, University of Malaga, Málaga, 29071, Spain
  • 4Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre, UNSW, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
  • 5Nationalpark Berchtesgaden, Berchtesgaden, 83471, Germany
  • 6Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, 00682, Puerto Rico
  • 7Department of Civil Engineering, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1TR, UK
  • 8Ciudadanos del Karso, 267 Sierra Morena PMB 230, San Juan, Puerto Rico 009264

Abstract. Karst systems that are characterized by a high subsurface heterogeneity are posing a challenge to study their complex recharge processes. Experimental methods to study karst processes mostly focus on characterizing the entire aquifer. Despite their important role for recharge processes, the limited focus has been given on studies of the soil and epikarst and most available research has been performed at sites of similar latitudes. In our study, we describe a new monitoring concept that allows the improvement of soil and epikarst processes understanding by covering different karst systems with different land cover at different climate regions. First, we describe the site selection and the experimental setup. Then we describe the five individual sites and their soil profiles. We also present some preliminary data and highlight the potential of the data for future research aimed at answering the relevant research questions: (1) How do the soil and epikarst heterogeneities influence water flow and storage processes in the karst vadose zone? (2) What is the impact of the land cover type on karstic groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration? (3) What is the impact of climate on karstic groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration? In order to answer these questions, we monitor soil moisture, which controls the partitioning of rainfall into infiltration, soil water storage, evapotranspiration, and groundwater recharge processes. We installed a soil moisture-monitoring network at five different climate regions: in Puerto Rico (tropical), Spain (Mediterranean), the United Kingdom (humid oceanic), Germany (humid mountainous), and Australia (dry semi-arid). At each of the five sites, we defined two 20 m × 20 m plots to install soil moisture probes under different land use types (forest and grassland). At each plot, 15 soil moisture profiles were installed with probes at different depths from the top soil to the epikarst (over 400 soil moisture probes were installed). Our first results show that the monitoring network provides new insights into the soil moisture dynamics of the five study sites and that significant differences prevail among forest and grassland sites. Some profiles are characterized by sequential reactions of soil moisture, i.e., the uppermost probe reacts first and the lowest probe reacts last, while at other profiles, we find non-sequential reactions that we interpret to result from preferential flow processes. While the former favours storage in the soil providing water for evapotranspiration, the latter can be seen as an indicator for the initiation of fast and preferential recharge into the karst system. Covering the spatiotemporal variability of these processes through a large number of installed probes, our monitoring network will allow to develop a new conceptual understanding of evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge processes in karst regions across different climate regions and land use types, and provide the base for quantitative assessment with physically-based modelling approaches in the future.

Romane Berthelin et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Romane Berthelin et al.
Romane Berthelin et al.
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