Diagnosing Hydrologic Flow Paths in Forest and Pasture Land Uses within the Panama Canal Watershed Using Simulated Rainfall and Electrical Resistivity Tomography
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Hydrological processes in the humid tropics are poorly understood and an important topic when it comes to water management in the seasonal tropics. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama Canal Watershed Experiment, Agua Salud Project, seeks to understand these processes and quantify the long-term effects of different land cover and use across the Panama Canal Watershed. In this study we used an ARS-type rainfall simulator to apply rainfall rates up to 200 mm per hour over a 2m by 6m area on deep saprolitic soils in forest and pasture land covers. A salinity contrast added to the applied rainwater allowed observation of bulk flow paths and velocities in the subsurface. The observed effects of land cover and land use on hydrological response were striking. In the forest site, we were unable to produce surface runoff even after the application of 600 mm of rainfall in three hours, and observed flow in soils down to approximately 2 m depth, and no downslope macropore flow. In the pasture site, surface runoff was produced, and we measured the permeability of the area with applied rainfall. Observed flow paths were much shallower, less than 1 m depth, with significant macropore flow observed at downslope positions. We hypothesize that land use and land cover have significant impacts on flow paths as they affect creation, connectivity, and function of biologically created macropores in the soil.