The potential of detecting intermediate-scale biomass and canopy interception in a coniferous forest using cosmic-ray neutron intensity measurements and neutron transport modeling
Abstract:The water stored in the various compartments of the terrestrial ecosystem (in snow, canopy interception, soil and litter) controls the exchange of the water and energy between the land surface and the atmosphere. Therefore, measurements of the water stored within these pools are critical for the prediction of e.g. evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge.
The detection of cosmic-ray neutron intensity is a novel non-invasive method for the quantification of continuous intermediate-scale soil moisture. The footprint of the cosmic-ray neutron probe is a hemisphere of a few hectometers and subsurface depths of 10-70 cm depending on wetness. The cosmic-ray neutron method offers measurements at a scale between the point-scale measurements and large-scale satellite retrievals.
The cosmic-ray neutron intensity is inversely correlated to the hydrogen stored within the footprint. Overall soil moisture represents the largest pool of hydrogen and changes in the soil moisture clearly affect the cosmic-ray neutron signal. However, the neutron intensity is also sensitive to variations of hydrogen in snow, canopy interception and biomass offering the potential to determine water content in such pools from the signal.
In this study we tested the potential of determining canopy interception and biomass using cosmic-ray neutron intensity measurements within the framework of the Danish Hydrologic Observatory (HOBE) and the Terrestrial Environmental Observatories (TERENO). Continuous measurements at the ground and the canopy level, along with profile measurements were conducted at towers at forest field sites. Field experiments, including shielding the cosmic-ray neutron probes with cadmium foil (to remove lower-energy neutrons) and measuring reference intensity rates at complete water saturated conditions (on the sea close to the HOBE site), were further conducted to obtain an increased understanding of the physics controlling the cosmic-ray neutron transport and the equipment used.
Additionally, neutron transport modeling, using the extended version of the Monte Carlo N-Particle Transport Code, was conducted. The responses of the reference condition, different amounts of biomass, soil moisture and canopy interception on the cosmic-ray neutron intensity were simulated and compared to the measurements.