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Spatial and temporal distribution of solute leaching in heterogeneous soils: analysis and application to multisampler lysimeter data
journal contributionposted on 2002-02-01, 00:00 authored by G de Rooij, Francesco Stagnitti
Accurate assessment of the fate of salts, nutrients, and pollutants in natural, heterogeneous soils requires a proper quantification of both spatial and temporal solute spreading during solute movement. The number of experiments with multisampler devices that measure solute leaching as a function of space and time is increasing. The breakthrough curve (BTC) can characterize the temporal aspect of solute leaching, and recently the spatial solute distribution curve (SSDC) was introduced to describe the spatial solute distribution. We combined and extended both concepts to develop a tool for the comprehensive analysis of the full spatio-temporal behavior of solute leaching. The sampling locations are ranked in order of descending amount of total leaching (defined as the cumulative leaching from an individual compartment at the end of the experiment), thus collapsing both spatial axes of the sampling plane into one. The leaching process can then be described by a curved surface that is a function of the single spatial coordinate and time. This leaching surface is scaled to integrate to unity, and termed S can efficiently represent data from multisampler solute transport experiments or simulation results from multidimensional solute transport models. The mathematical relationships between the scaled leaching surface S, the BTC, and the SSDC are established. Any desired characteristic of the leaching process can be derived from S. The analysis was applied to a chloride leaching experiment on a lysimeter with 300 drainage compartments of 25 cm2 each. The sandy soil monolith in the lysimeter exhibited fingered flow in the water-repellent top layer. The observed S demonstrated the absence of a sharp separation between fingers and dry areas, owing to diverging flow in the wettable soil below the fingers. Times-to-peak, maximum solute fluxes, and total leaching varied more in high-leaching than in low-leaching compartments. This suggests a stochastic–convective transport process in the high-flow streamtubes, while convection–dispersion is predominant in the low-flow areas. S can be viewed as a bivariate probability density function. Its marginal distributions are the BTC of all sampling locations combined, and the SSDC of cumulative solute leaching at the end of the experiment. The observed S cannot be represented by assuming complete independence between its marginal distributions, indicating that S contains information about the leaching process that cannot be derived from the combination of the BTC and the SSDC.