Soil moisture spatio-temporal behavior of Pinus pinaster stands on sandy flatlands of central Spain.

Valentin Gómez Sanz, J I Garcia-Viñas


Pinus pinaster stands in the center of the Iberian Peninsula frequently grow in a unique hydrological system characterized by a variable groundwater table near the soil surface and highly permeable soils (arenosols). Over the last few decades, this superficial aquifer has been overused as a water resource, especially for irrigated crops. Overuse has reached a critical level and has caused various environmental impacts and a water sustainability crisis wherein rainfall variability does not allow for a sufficient level of aquifer recharge by natural means. Within this changing scenario, soil water significantly affects the spatio-temporal ecological response, necessitating more extensive characterization of the complex soil-tree water relationship. The primary goal of the present work was to evaluate the influence of root zone soil moisture on the observed spatial response of Pinus pinaster stands. Volumetric soil moisture content was measured at eleven forest sites, using time-domain reflectometry (TDR), over a two-year observation period. The results demonstrate that the combined effect of groundwater table proximity and dune morphology associated with this area are the main factors driving very different water availability conditions among the monitored hydrological response units, which modulate maritime pine installation and development. Topographically lower areas are more heterogeneous in terms of soil moisture behavior. In these areas, the conifer forests that are connected to the water table may be the most sensitive to land use changes within current environmental change scenarios. Consequently, in these pine ecosystems, the combined influences of geomorphology and water table proximity on variations in root zone soil moisture are essential and must be considered to develop adequate adaptive management models.


water availability; hydrological response unit; hydrological landscape; Mediterranean maritime pine

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2011202-11186