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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 74 No. 1, p. 292-300
    Received: May 22, 2009

    * Corresponding author(s): pichler@vsld.tuzvo.sk
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Unsaturated Hydraulic Conductivity Estimation of a Forest Soil Assuming a Stochastic-Convective Process

  1. Marián Homolák *a,
  2. Viliam Pichlera,
  3. William A. Juryb,
  4. Jozef Capuliakc,
  5. JoAnn O'Lingerd and
  6. Juraj Gregora
  1. a Department of Natural Environment, Faculty of Forestry, Technical University in Zvolen, T.G. Masaryka 24, 960 53 Zvolen, the Slovak Republic
    b Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA
    c Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
    d Spitzer Science Center, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125


Measurement of soil hydraulic conductivity requires considerable time and effort, which makes it difficult to characterize this important parameter across larger areas, especially remote forest regions. Forest soils are frequently texturally coarser than those in agricultural areas, making them more probable candidates for applications building on the stochastic-convective hypothesis. We developed a method for measuring unsaturated soil hydraulic conductivity based on the analysis of a dye tracer resident concentration profile. In the experiment, partially saturated, steady-state water flow was established in a forest allophanic soil by a sprinkler operating at 50 mm h−1, after which the water application was switched to a 10 mg L−1 Brilliant Blue FCF solution. The tracer was applied continuously until its cumulative infiltration reached 125 mm, after which the stained soil profile was exposed and photographed. The picture was subjected to an image analysis procedure designed to obtain the resident concentration profile of the tracer. The concentration was fitted to the solution of the convective lognormal transfer function, whose parameters were used in further calculations using functional relationships derived from the stochastic-convective framework. The resulting hydraulic conductivity as a function of soil water content agreed within an order of magnitude with the relationship obtained by the instantaneous profile method. While the Mualem–van Genuchten model better reproduced the shape of that relationship, it strongly underestimated the hydraulic conductivity across the soil water content interval of interest (0.1–0.4). Finally, ways to improve the predictive capacity of the stochastic-convective approach in terms of the general trends of the functional relationship were proposed.

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