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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Interflow dynamics on a low relief forested hillslope: Lots of fill, little spill

  • Author(s): Du, E
  • Rhett Jackson, C
  • Klaus, J
  • McDonnell, JJ
  • Griffiths, NA
  • Williamson, MF
  • Greco, JL
  • Bitew, M
  • et al.

© 2016. We evaluated the occurrence of perching and interflow over and within a sandy clay loam argillic horizon within first-order, low-relief, forested catchments at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in the Upper Coastal Plain of South Carolina. We measured soil hydraulic properties, depths to the argillic layer, soil moisture, shallow groundwater behavior, interflow interception trench flows, and streamflow over a 4-year period to explore the nature and variability of soil hydraulic characteristics, the argillic "topography", and their influence on interflow generation. Perching occurred frequently within and above the restricting argillic horizons during our monitoring period, but interflow was infrequent due to microtopographic relief and associated depression storage on the argillic layer surface. High percolation rates through the argillic horizon, particularly through soil anomalies, also reduced the importance of interflow. Interflow generation was highly variable across eleven segments of a 121 m interception trench. Hillslopes were largely disconnected from stream behavior during storms. Hillslope processes were consistent with the fill-and-spill hypothesis and featured a sequence of distinct thresholds: vertical wetting front propagation to the argillic layer; saturation of the argillic followed by local perching; filling of argillic layer depressions; and finally connectivity of depressions leading to interflow generation. Analysis of trench flow data indicated a cumulative rainfall threshold of 60 mm to generate interflow, a value at the high end of the range of thresholds reported elsewhere.

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