Soil hydrological processes (SHP) support ecosystems, modulate the impact of climate change on terrestrial systems and control feedback mechanisms between water, energy and biogeochemical cycles. However, land-use changes and extreme events are increasingly impacting these processes. In this Review, we describe SHP across scales and examine their links with soil properties, ecosystem processes and climate. Soil structure influences SHP such as infiltration, soil water redistribution and root water uptake on small scales. On local scales, SHP are driven by root water uptake, vegetation and groundwater dynamics. Regionally, SHP are impacted by extreme events such as droughts, floods, heatwaves and land-use change; however, antecedent and current SHP partially determine the broader effects of extreme events. Emerging technologies such as wireless and automated sensing, soil moisture observation through novel synthetic aperture radars satellites, big data analysis and machine learning approaches offer unique opportunities to advance soil hydrology. These advances, in tandem with the inclusion of more key soil types and properties in models, will be pivotal in predicting the role of SHP during global change.
Local-scale soil hydrological processes regulate climatic effects on the global terrestrial water cycle by controlling energy and greenhouse gas fluxes.
Regional-scale soil hydrology is modulated by land-use and climate-change effects on soil structure.
Global-scale soil hydrology benefits from emerging technologies and big data analysis, but still faces parameterization challenges related to soil properties, such as soil structure and soil hydraulic parameters.
Processes such as freeze-thawing, cryoturbation, peat degradation, and swelling and shrinking control soil hydraulic parameters in distinct soil groups, such as permafrost and peat soils.
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W.A., N.B., C.M., J.V. and H.V. acknowledge support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft under Germany’s Excellence Strategy, EXC-2070 - 390732324 (PhenoRob). W.A., H.B., N.B., C.M., J.V. and H.V. acknowledge support from the Terrestrial Environmental Observatories (TERENO) funded by the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft, Germany. The authors were also supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – SFB 1502/1-2022 - Projektnummer 450058266.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Vereecken, H., Amelung, W., Bauke, S.L. et al. Soil hydrology in the Earth system. Nat Rev Earth Environ 3, 573–587 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-022-00324-6
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