Effects of rainfall on soil moisture and water movement in a subalpine dark coniferous forest in southwestern China


Shirong Liu, Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Environment of State Forestry Administration, Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing 100091, China.

E-mail: liusr@caf.ac.cn


Water content and movement in soil profile and hydrogen isotope composition (δD) of soil water, rainwater, and groundwater were examined in a subalpine dark coniferous forest in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan, China, following rainfall events in 2003–2004. Light rainfall increased water content in the litter and at soil depth of 0–80 cm, but the increased soil water was lost in several days. Heavy rainfall increased soil water content up to 85% at depths of 0–40 cm. Following the light rainfall in early spring, the δD of water from the litter, humus, illuvial, and material layers decreased first and then gradually reached the pre-rainfall level. In summer, light rainfall reached the litter humus, and illuvial layer, but did not hit the material layer. Heavy rainfall affected δD of water in all layers. The δD of soil interflow slightly fluctuated with rainfall events. The δD of shallow groundwater did not differ significantly among all rainfall events. Light rainfall altered the shape of δD profile curve of water in the upper layer of soil, whereas heavy rainfall greatly affected the shape of δD profile curve of water in all soil layers. Following the heavy rainfall, preferential flow initially occurred through macropores, decayed plant roots, and rocks at different depths of soil profile. With continuing rainfall, the litter and surface soil were nearly saturated or fully saturated, and infiltration became homogeneous and plug-like. Forest soil water, particularly in deeper soil profile, was slightly affected by rainfall and, thus, can be a source of water supply for regional needs, particularly during dry seasons. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.