Ying Fan Reinfelder

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Rutgers University

Ying Fan (Reinfelder) is a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Rutgers University. She is a hydrologist interested in how water regulates the structure, function and evolution of terrestrial environment through physical, chemical and biological pathways, in particular through plant-water relations. Her tools are observational synthesis and global high-resolution numerical models, the latter for gaining insights and testing hypotheses.

Three Critical Hydrologic Depths

What is the depth and frequency of rainfall infiltration? How deep to plant roots penetrate into the soils? How deep is the groundwater table? Infiltration brings the acidic and thus chemically aggressive surface fluids into contact with the basic regolith and bedrocks, and by doing so it controls weathering rates. It also determines the wetted soil depth and hence influences plant rooting depths, the latter determines the depth of the Earth’s crust penetrated and altered by terrestrial life. It also controls the infiltration depth and the water table depth through ET consumption, and a suite of soil microbial processes. The water table depth defines the redox boundary and hence a range of biogeochemical reactions. Its depth also determines its hydraulic connection with the rainfall infiltration depth, hence completing the flushing of weathering products into groundwater and streams. Thus these three mutually dependent hydrologic depths shape the plumbing system of the Earth’s Critical Zone and its structure, function and evolution. Observation syntheses are presented to illustrate the mechanisms, and a high-resolution and dynamic inverse model is used to explore the global patterns in the co-evolution of the three depths.

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