Understanding soil and watershed hydrology

PARTNERS: North Carolina Forest Service; Weyerhaeuser

SUMMARY: Forests in North Carolina cover 60 percent of the land surface equaling about 18 million acres. Understanding the impact of soil properties on forest hydrology and water quality can offer valuable information to researchers and water resource managers in addressing water shortages during droughts. For example, watershed-specific baseflow, stormflow, and water quality patterns can be used to further assess issues such as reservoir release requirements, land acquisition strategies, project management options, and nutrient divergence from background values due to tree stem removal, land development, and other disturbances. EFETAC scientists examined forest hydrology and water quality patterns in North Carolina piedmont headwater watersheds with different geologic features and soil characteristics, Carolina Slate Belt (CSB) and Triassic Basin (TB), and offered reference or baseline data for area watershed planning.

EFETAC'S ROLE: This project is supported by EFETAC funding and collaborative research.

STATUS: Completed

PROGRESS: Over the study monitoring period, differences in discharge/precipitation ratios between CSB and TB were not significantly different (17% vs. 20%, respectively). Storm hydrologic characteristics were significantly higher in TB than CSB in both dormant and growing season. Benthic macroinvertebrate biotic index score was excellent for all streams, indicating high water quality for CSB and TB. Nutrient concentrations and exports in CSB and TB were within background levels for forests. Low stream NO3 and NH4 concentrations and exports suggested that both CSB and TB were nitrogen limited. Researchers concluded that CSB and TB soils had significant influences on seasonal and storm flow, but not on long-term total water yield and water quality under forested conditions. This study indicated that watersheds on TB soils might be more prone to storm flow generation than CSB soils when converted from forest to urban uses in the Piedmont region.

Boggs, J., G. Sun, D. Jones, and S.G. McNulty. 2013. Effect of soils on water quantity and quality in piedmont forested headwater watersheds of North Carolina. Journal of American Water Resources Association 49(1):132-150. (PDF)

Kuntukova, Y. 2011. Storm-event Rainfall-runoff Response in Carolina Slate Belt and Triassic Basin Catchments. MS thesis, North Carolina State University. (PDF)

Dreps, C.L. 2011. Water Storm Dynamics and Water Balances of Two Piedmont North Carolina Headwater Catchments. MS thesis, North Carolina State University. (PDF)


CONTACT: Johnny Boggs, EFETAC Biological Scientist, johnny.boggs@usda.gov or 919-549-4060

Updated December 2012

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