Coupling time-lapse ground penetrating radar surveys and infiltration experiments to characterize two types of non-uniform flow


Understanding linkages between heterogeneous soil structures and non-uniform flow is fundamental for interpreting infiltration processes and improving hydrological simulations. Here, we utilized ground-penetrating radar (GPR) as a non-invasive technique to investigate those linkages and to complement current traditional methods that are labor-intensive, invasive, and non-repeatable. We combined time-lapse GPR surveys with different types of infiltration experiments to create three-dimensional (3D) diagrams of the wetting dynamics. We carried out the GPR surveys and validated them with in situ observations, independent measurements and field excavations at two experimental sites. Those sites were selected to represent different mechanisms that generate non-uniform flow: (1) preferential water infiltration initiated by tree trunk and root systems; and (2) lateral subsurface flow due to soil layering. Results revealed links between different types of soil heterogeneity and non-uniform flow. The first experimental site provided evidence of root-induced preferential flow paths along coarse roots, emphasizing the important role of coarse roots in facilitating preferential water movement through the subsurface. The second experimental site showed that water infiltrated through the restrictive layer mainly following the plant root system. The presented approach offers a non-invasive, repeatable and accurate way to detect non-uniform flow.



GPR, Preferential flow, Soil layers, Stemflow, Water infiltration, Environmental Sciences