Soil moisture: A central and unifying theme in physical geography

David R. Legates, Rezaul Mahmood, Delphis F. Levia, Tracy L. DeLiberty, Steven M. Quiring, Chris Houser, Frederick E. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

250 Scopus citations


Soil moisture is a critical component of the earth system and plays an integrative role among the various subfields of physical geography. This paper highlights not just how soil moisture affects atmospheric, geomorphic, hydrologic, and biologic processes but that it lies at the intersection of these areas of scientific inquiry. Soil moisture impacts earth surface processes in such a way that it creates an obvious synergistic relationship among the various subfields of physical geography. The dispersive and cohesive properties of soil moisture also make it an important variable in regional and microclimatic analyses, landscape denudation and change through weathering, runoff generation and partitioning, mass wasting, and sediment transport. Thus, this paper serves as a call to use research in soil moisture as an integrative and unifying theme in physical geography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-86
Number of pages22
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • biogeography
  • climatology
  • geomorphology
  • hydrology
  • soil moisture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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