Deriving effective soil water retention characteristics from shallow water table fluctuations in peatlands

Dettmann, Ullrich GND; Bechtold, Michel GND

We have developed a novel and simple approach that can be used to derive effective in situ soil water retention characteristics from field monitoring time series in peatlands. The simplicity of the approach is given by the very limited data requirements, which comprise only precipitation, water table, and, if relevant, microrelief data. Our approach is built on two main assumptions: (i) for shallow groundwater systems, the soil moisture profile is always close to hydrostatic equilibrium; and (ii) during short time periods of high precipitation, the water storage change due to lateral fluxes is small compared with the precipitation input. Given these assumptions, the height of a water table rise due to a precipitation event mainly depends on the soil water retention characteristics, the precipitation amount, the initial water table depth, and, if present, the microrelief. In this study, this dependency was used to determine the effective van Genuchten parameters by Bayesian inversion assuming a uniform soil profile. We applied our concept to field data from a peatland with microrelief. Results indicated that observations of water table rises caused by precipitation events can contain sufficient information to constrain the soil water retention characteristics around monitoring wells in peatlands to plausible ranges. In principle, the approach should also be applicable to other shallow groundwater systems. Application limits and potential systematic errors are discussed.

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Dettmann, Ullrich / Bechtold, Michel: Deriving effective soil water retention characteristics from shallow water table fluctuations in peatlands. 2016.

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