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Water 2018, 10(2), 191; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10020191

Modeling Spatial Soil Water Dynamics in a Tropical Floodplain, East Africa

1
Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Meckenheimer Allee 166, 53115 Bonn, Germany
2
Steinmann Institute of Geology, Palaeontology, and Mineralogy, University of Bonn, Nussallee 8, 53115 Bonn, Germany
3
Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), 01 B.P. 2031 Cotonou, Benin
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 November 2017 / Revised: 4 February 2018 / Accepted: 8 February 2018 / Published: 11 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil-Plant-Water Relationships)
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Abstract

Analyzing the spatial and temporal distribution of soil moisture is critical for ecohydrological processes and for sustainable water management studies in wetlands. The characterization of soil moisture dynamics and its influencing factors in agriculturally used wetlands pose a challenge in data-scarce regions such as East Africa. High resolution and good-quality time series soil moisture data are rarely available and gaps are frequent due to measurement constraints and device malfunctioning. Soil water models that integrate meteorological conditions and soil water storage may significantly overcome limitations due to data gaps at a point scale. The purpose of this study was to evaluate if the Hydrus-1D model would adequately simulate soil water dynamics at different hydrological zones of a tropical floodplain in Tanzania, to determine controlling factors for wet and dry periods and to assess soil water availability. The zones of the Kilombero floodplain were segmented as riparian, middle, and fringe along a defined transect. The model was satisfactorily calibrated (coefficient of determination; R2 = 0.54–0.92, root mean square error; RMSE = 0.02–0.11) on a plot scale using measured soil moisture content at soil depths of 10, 20, 30, and 40 cm. Satisfying statistical measures (R2 = 0.36–0.89, RMSE = 0.03–0.13) were obtained when calibrations for one plot were validated with measured soil moisture for another plot within the same hydrological zone. Results show the transferability of the calibrated Hydrus-1D model to predict soil moisture for other plots with similar hydrological conditions. Soil water storage increased towards the riparian zone, at 262.8 mm/a while actual evapotranspiration was highest (1043.9 mm/a) at the fringe. Overbank flow, precipitation, and groundwater control soil moisture dynamics at the riparian and middle zone, while at the fringe zone, rainfall and lateral flow from mountains control soil moisture during the long rainy seasons. In the dry and short rainy seasons, rainfall, soil properties, and atmospheric demands control soil moisture dynamics at the riparian and middle zone. In addition to these factors, depths to groundwater level control soil moisture variability at the fringe zone. Our results support a better understanding of groundwater-soil water interaction, and provide references for wetland conservation and sustainable agricultural water management. View Full-Text
Keywords: hydrological zones; depth to groundwater level; soil moisture content; Hydrus-1D; Kilombero floodplain; Tanzania hydrological zones; depth to groundwater level; soil moisture content; Hydrus-1D; Kilombero floodplain; Tanzania
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Gabiri, G.; Burghof, S.; Diekkrüger, B.; Leemhuis, C.; Steinbach, S.; Näschen, K. Modeling Spatial Soil Water Dynamics in a Tropical Floodplain, East Africa. Water 2018, 10, 191.

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