This story highlights a current research project at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. To read more about research projects at HBEF, visit Current Research page. Check back regularly to learn about new research projects.
Landform controls on hydrologic flowpaths and pedogenesis
explain solute retention and export from pedon to catchment scales


Rebecca Bourgault (UVM) characterizing and sampling a soil pit in Watershed 3.
gannon samples
JP Gannon (VT) sampling a soil lysimer during a snow melt event.
  Suzanne Kok (Utrecht) preparing snow melt samples for a variety of analyses.
  Contact Info:
  Scott Bailey
US Forest Service
Northern Research Station
Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest
234 Mirror Lake Road
North Woodstock, NH 03262

Kevin McGuire
Va. Water Resources Research Ctr.
Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
College of Nat. Res. and Env.
Va. Tech 210B Cheatham Hall 0444
Blacksburg, VA 24061
  Don Ross
Dept. of Plant & Soil Science
Jeffords Hall
Univ. of Vermont
Burlington, VT 05405-1737

Tom Bullen
U.S. Geological Survey
Water Resources Division
345 Middlefield Road, MS 420
Menlo Park, CA 94025

LINKAGES between hydrology and soil development can provide valuable information for managing forests and stream water quality. This project is aimed at explaining the spatial and temporal variation in stream water chemistry, soils, and runoff areas at the headwater catchment scale using a framework based on the combined study of hydrology and soil development - hydropedology. Feedbacks between soils and hydrology that lead to predictable landscape patterns of soil chemistry have implications for understanding spatial gradients in site productivity and suitability for species with differing habitat requirements or chemical sensitivity. Likewise, habitats for soil organisms, small vertebrates, and birds are influenced by spatial soil gradients. Tools are needed that identify and predict these gradients that can ultimately provide guidance for ecosystem services and land management decision making. Better integration between soil science, hydrology, and biogeochemistry will provide the conceptual leap needed by the catchment science community to be able to better predict and explain temporal and spatial variability of flora and fauna, stream water quality, soil quality, and understand water sources contributing to streamflow.

We have mapped and characterized 5 soil functional units with unique morphology, groundwater regimes, and chemistry based on over 175 soil pits, a ground water monitoring network of 60 recording wells, and a detailed terrain analysis established from digital elevation models derived from LiDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging).  This hydropedological framework can offer insight into the movement and distribution of water and matter in a landscape and ultimately help us understand how the spatial organization of soils can be used to unravel complex processes such as what controls biogeochemical export and retention at the landscape level.

  Conceptual diagram of hydropedological units (HPUs) in watershed 3. Each HPU is classified by the presence and thickness of particular soil horizons found in podzols.

This work was funded by NSF EAR-1014507 and DBI/EAR-0754678.

For more information, visit the project website:


        Date Prepared: June 2013