Sentinel Site expanding – two new soil probes installed

Did you know that Pepperwood has dozens of sensors strategically positioned around our preserve? They provide us with an in-depth picture of conditions by tracking things like temperature, humidity, soil moisture, fog, leaf wetness and more. There are few if any sites in Northern California with as in-depth a monitoring network as Pepperwood. And thanks to your support, our Sentinel Site keeps expanding!

Pepperwood just added two more soil monitoring probes—Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR) water content sensors for those of you who want to get technical—and a soil temperature probe to our Sentinel Site. We have installed 6 total soil sensors so far in the month of March and are planning to install 3 to 6 more by the end of the month.

This graphic shows the two new TDR sensors, as well as two existing ones currently on our wireless mesh network, which relays data collected from dozens of different instruments across the preserve to a central computer. “You can see that 3 of the 4 made a big jump in water content on the 3/19 storm,” says Celeste Dodge, Pepperwood’s Systems Ecologist who is heavily involved with our climate monitoring. “The pink line represents a deep sensor that already had high water content and did not increase much with the storm.”

The first set of soil moisture probes installed at Pepperwood by the USGS in 2010 totals 8 in number and they are the only probes of their kind in the entire Russian River basin. The US Geological Survey and Sonoma County Water Agency use data from these sensors to understand the likelihood of extreme flow or flood events when large storms are predicted.

“Soil moisture data is a particularly important type of data,” says Celeste. “It enables better predictions of runoff and mudslides when large storms are predicted, and also enables us to better understand the level of drought stress experienced by vegetation. Many of the changes in vegetation that are projected to occur with climate change will be driven by climatic water deficit, which increases as soil moisture declines.”

Stay tuned for more updates on our Sentinel Site!

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