Runoff processes in catchments with a small scale topography

Feyen H. 1, Leuenberger J. 1, Papritz A. 1, Gysi M. 1, Flühler H. 1, Schleppi P. 2

1 Soil Phys., Inst. Terr. Ecol., ETH Zurich, Grabenstr. 3, CH-8952 Schlieren, Switzerland
2 Swiss Fed. Inst. Forest Snow and Landscape Res., Zürcherstr. 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland

Phys. Chem. Earth 21 (1996): 177-181

DOI: 10.1016/S0079-1946(97)85581-4


How do runoff processes influence nitrogen export from forested catchments? To support nitrogen balance studies for three experimental catchments (1500 m2) in the Northern Swiss prealps water flow processes in the two dominating soil types are monitored. Here we present the results for an experimental wetland catchment (1500 m2) and for a delineated soil plot (10 m2), both with a muck humus topsoil. Runoff measurements on both the catchment and the soil plot showed fast reactions of the surface and subsurface runoff to rainfall inputs, indicating the dominance of fast-flow paths such as cracks and fissures. Three quarters of the runoff from the soil plot can be attributed to water flow in the gleyic, clayey subsoil, 20% to flow in the humic A horizon and only 5% to surface runoff. The water balance for the wetland catchment was closed. The water balance of the soil plot did not close. Due to vertical upward flow from the saturated subsoil into the upper layers, the surface runoff plus subsurface runoff exceeded the input (precipitation) to the plot.