Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

UZIG research: Measurement and characterization of unsaturated zone processes under wide-ranging climates and changing conditions

December 20, 2018

Unsaturated zone properties and processes are central to understanding the interacting effects of land-use change, contamination, and hydroclimate on our ability to grow food, sustain clean water supplies, and minimize loss of life and property. Advances in unsaturated zone science are being achieved through collaborations across traditional boundaries where information from biological, physical, and chemical disciplines is combined for new insights. The Unsaturated Zone Interest Group (UZIG) is an organization that exists principally to promote multidisciplinary collaborations and the sharing of ideas, expertise, and technical assets. Here we summarize key findings from 14 papers, several of which originated from a meeting convened by UZIG in 2017 at the University of Florida in Gainesville titled “Land-Use Change, Climate Change, and Hydrologic Extremes: Unsaturated Zone Responses and Feedbacks.” This special section of Vadose Zone Journal contains multidisciplinary research in three general categories relevant to measuring and understanding unsaturated zone responses to changing land uses and climate: (i) unsaturated zone properties and processes; (ii) soil–plant–atmosphere interactions; and (iii) novel field sampling devices. A strong cross-cutting theme in these papers is the value of continuous monitoring data and ways of utilizing them to discover novel hydrologic, biologic, and pedologic information. As climatic and land-use conditions change and demands for resources and stresses on ecosystems continue to intensify, it is vital to improve our fundamental understanding of the processes at work in the unsaturated zone. Toward that goal, we discuss the need for improved ground-based unsaturated zone monitoring networks.