Development of a conceptual model of the soil-moisture-plant sub-system of the hydrological cycle

  • Darryn A. Evans

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The soil-plant-moisture subsystem is an important component of the hydrological cycle. Over the last 20 or so years a number of computer models of varying complexity have represented this subsystem with differing degrees of success. The aim of this present work has been to improve and extend an existing model.
The new model is less site specific thus allowing for the simulation of a wide range of soil types and profiles. Several processes, not included in the original model, are simulated by the inclusion of new algorithms, including: macropore flow; hysteresis and plant growth. Changes have also been made to the infiltration, water uptake and water flow algorithms.
Using field data from various sources, regression equations have been derived which relate parameters in the suction-conductivity-moisture content relationships to easily measured soil properties such as particle-size distribution data. Independent tests have been performed on laboratory data produced by Hedges (1989). The parameters found by regression for the suction relationships were then used in equations describing the infiltration and macropore processes.
An extensive literature review produced a new model for calculating plant growth from actual transpiration, which was itself partly determined by the root densities and leaf area indices derived by the plant growth model. The new infiltration model uses intensity/duration curves to disaggregate daily rainfall inputs into hourly amounts.
The final model has been calibrated and tested against field data, and its performance compared to that of the original model. Simulations have also been carried out to investigate the effects of various parameters on infiltration, macropore flow, actual transpiration and plant growth. Qualitatively comparisons have been made between these results and data given in the literature.
Date of AwardOct 1990
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBill Walley (Supervisor)


  • Development
  • conceptual model
  • hydrological modelling
  • irrigation monitoring
  • simulation

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