Representing vapour and capillary rise from the soil improves a leaf litter moisture model

Li Zhao*, Marta Yebra, Albert I.J.M. van Dijk, Geoffrey J. Cary

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Litter moisture content plays a critical role in fire danger rating systems and forest ecosystems. Soil moisture content has been proposed to affect litter moisture due to vapour flux and capillary rise from the soil. However, few models consider soil water content when predicting litter moisture, and to our knowledge, no model includes capillary fluxes. In this study, we represented soil moisture coupling in a physics-based litter moisture prediction model by describing the vapour and capillary fluxes from the soil to litter. We aimed to evaluate if litter moisture predictions can be improved by incorporating the hydrological process at the soil-litter interface and explored the possible role of soil moisture in litter moisture simulations. Three model versions were compared against observations at a dry and wet experimental site in Australia: the original physics-based model, a model version extended with soil vapour flux only, and a version that incorporates both soil vapour flux and capillary rise. The simulation results suggest that soil moisture considerably influences litter moisture through soil vapour flux and capillary rise, which can lead to more than 10% of oven-dried weight, particularly under wet soil conditions. The corresponding model showed the best performance in comparison with field observations. The contribution of upward soil moisture fluxes was small after long dry and warm periods but noticeable during more moist periods. Further research is needed to evaluate the revised model for a broader range of weather, soil and litter conditions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number128087
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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