Soil physical, hydraulic, and thermal properties in interior Alaska, USA: Implications for hydrologic response to thawing permafrost conditions

Water Resources Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Boreal forest regions are a focal point for investigations of coupled water and biogeochemical fluxes in response to wildfire disturbances, climate warming, and permafrost thaw. Soil hydraulic, physical, and thermal property measurements for mineral soils in permafrost regions are limited, despite substantial influences on cryohydrogeologic model results. This work expands mineral soil property quantification in cold regions through soil characterization from the discontinuous permafrost zone of interior Alaska, USA. Values extend beyond the range of prior measurement magnitudes in analogous regions, highlighting the importance of this dataset. Rocky and silty upland soil landscape classifications and wildfire disturbance provided guiding frameworks for the sampling and analysis for potential implications for the hydrologic response to thawing permafrost. Bulk density, soil organic matter, soil–particle size distributions (sand, silt, and gravel fractions), and soil hydraulic properties of van Genuchten parameters alpha and N had moderate evidence of differences between silty and rocky classifications. Burned and unburned sites had only moderate evidence of differences for silt fraction. Field-saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kfs) was more variable at burned sites compared to unburned sites, which corresponded to observations of greater rooting depths at burned sites and observations of root paths in soil cores for Kfs measurement. Soil thermal properties suggested that gravel content may reduce the accuracy of commonly used estimation methods for thermal conductivity . This work provides soil parameter constraints necessary for hypothesis testing and site-specific prediction with cryohydrogeologic models to examine controls on active layer and permafrost dynamics in upland boreal forests.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Soil physical, hydraulic, and thermal properties in interior Alaska, USA: Implications for hydrologic response to thawing permafrost conditions
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1029/2018WR023673
Volume 55
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) WMA - Earth System Processes Division
Description 21 p.
First page 4427
Last page 4447
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Interior Alaska