• Hydrologic Properties of Subarctic Organic Soils

      Kane, Douglas L.; Seifert, Richard D.; Taylor, George S. (University of Alaska, Institute of Water Resources, 1978-01)
      The need for understanding the natural system and how it responds to various stresses is important; this is especially so in an environment where the climate not only sustains permafrost, but develops massive seasonal frost as well. Consequently, the role of the shallow surface organic layer is also quite important. Since a slight change in the soil thermal regime may bring about a phase change in the water or ice, therefore, the system response to surface alterations such as burning can be quite severe. The need for a better understanding of the behavior and properties of the organic layer is, therefore, accentuated. The central theme of this study was the examination of the hydrologic and hydraulic properties of subarctic organic soils. Summarized in this paper are the results of three aspects of subarctic organic soil examinations conducted during the duration of the project. First, a field site was set up in Washington Creek with the major emphasis on measuring numerous variables of that soil system during the summer. The greatest variations in moisture content occur in the thick organic soils that exist at this site. Our major emphasis was to study the soil moisture levels in these soils. This topic is covered in the first major section, including associated laboratory studies. Those laboratory studies include investigations of several hydraulic and hydrologic properties of taiga organic and mineral soils. Second, some field data on organic moisture levels was collected at the site of prescribed burns in Washington Creek to ascertain the sustainability of fires as a function of moisture levels. This portion of the study is described under the second major heading. The last element of this study was a continued application of the two-dimensional flow model that was developed in an earlier study funded by the U. S. Forest Service, Institute of Northern Forestry, and reported by Kane, Luthin, and Taylor (1975a). Many of the results and concepts gathered in the field work were integrated into the modeling effort, which is aimed at producing better estimates of the hydrologic effects of surface disturbances in the black spruce taiga subarctic ecosystem. This knowledge should also contribute to better fire management decisions of the same system.