Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Hydrologic characterization of desert soils with varying degrees of pedogenesis: 1. field experiments evaluating plant-relevant soil water behavior

January 1, 2009

To assess the eff ect of pedogenesis on the soil moisture dynamics infl uencing the character and quality of ecological habitat, we conducted infi ltration and redistribution experiments on three alluvial deposits in the Mojave National Preserve: (i) recently deposited active wash sediments, (ii) a soil of early Holocene age, and (iii) a highly developed soil of late Pleistocene age. At each, we ponded water in a 1-m-diameter infi ltration ring for 2.3 h and monitored soil water content and matric pressure during and atier infi ltration, using probes and electrical resistivity imaging (ERI). Infi ltration and downward fl ow rates were greater in younger material, favoring deep-rooted species. Deep-rooted species tend to colonize the margins of washes, where they are unaff ected by sediment transport that inhibits colonization. The ERI results support important generalizations, for example that shallower than 0.5 m, infi ltrated water persists longer in highly developed soil, favoring shallow-rooted species. Soil moisture data for the two youngest soils suggested that saturation overshoot, which may have signifi cant but unexplored hydroecologic and pedogenic eff ects, occurred at the horizontally advancing weting front. Spatial heterogeneity of soil properties generally increased with pedogenic development. Evidence suggested that some early-stage developmental processes may promote uniformity; the intermediate- age soil appeared to have the least heterogeneity in terms of textural variation with depth, and also the least anisotropy. Lateral heterogeneity was pronounced in older soil, having a multitude of eff ects on the distribution and retention of soil water, and may facilitate certain water-conserving strategies of plants over what would be possible in a laterally homogeneous soil. ?? Soil Science Society of America.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2009
Title Hydrologic characterization of desert soils with varying degrees of pedogenesis: 1. field experiments evaluating plant-relevant soil water behavior
DOI 10.2136/vzj2008.0052
Authors John R. Nimmo, Kim S. Perkins, Kevin Schmidt, David M. Miller, Jonathan D. Stock, Kamini Singha
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Vadose Zone Journal
Series Number
Index ID 70034560
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center