Hydrologic controls on equilibrium soil depths

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Abstract

[1] This paper deals with modeling the mutual feedbacks between runoff production and geomorphological processes and attributes that lead to patterns of equilibrium soil depth. Our primary goal is an attempt to describe spatial patterns of soil depth resulting from long-term interactions between hydrologic forcings and soil production, erosion, and sediment transport processes under the framework of landscape dynamic equilibrium. Another goal is to set the premises for exploiting the role of soil depths in shaping the hydrologic response of a catchment. The relevance of the study stems from the massive improvement in hydrologic predictions for ungauged basins that would be achieved by using directly soil depths derived from geomorphic features remotely measured and objectively manipulated. Hydrological processes are here described by explicitly accounting for local soil depths and detailed catchment topography. Geomorphological processes are described by means of well-studied geomorphic transport laws. The modeling approach is applied to the semiarid Dry Creek Experimental Watershed, located near Boise, Idaho. Modeled soil depths are compared with field data obtained from an extensive survey of the catchment. Our results show the ability of the model to describe properly the mean soil depth and the broad features of the distribution of measured data. However, local comparisons show significant scatter whose origins are discussed.

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