Journal of Hydrology, 06 June 2012, Vol.442-443, pp.63-74
► We investigated the effects of liquid penetration kinetics on aggregate stability. ► Stability was assessed by immersion in liquids with different surface tension. ► Penetration was related to aggregate contact angle and liquid surface tension. ► Aggregate stability was inversely related to wettability in terms of contact angle. ► Aggregate stability was controlled by solid and liquid interfacial properties. Aggregate stability is frequently shown to be enhanced by strong soil water repellency, however, there is limited systematic evidence on this effect for moderately (subcritically) water repellent soils. This study aimed to investigate the specific effects of interfacial properties on the liquid penetration kinetics in relation to the stability of subcritically water repellent aggregates (4–6.3 mm) from various arable and forest soils against breakdown by slaking. In contrast to many other studies, where aggregate stability was determined by wet sieving, we here assessed the stability by immersion of air-dry aggregates in water–ethanol solutions with surface tensions ranging from 30 to 70 mN m . This approach allowed a highly sensitive discrimination of different stability levels and the determination of breakdown kinetics also for less stable aggregates. Interfacial properties were characterized in terms of contact angle measured on crushed aggregates, , and calculated for intact aggregates, , based on infiltration measurements with water and ethanol. Aggregate stability turned out to be higher in forest soils compared to arable soils with topsoil aggregates generally found to be more stable than subsoil aggregates. For water repellent aggregates, characterized by contact angles 〉40° and low water infiltration rates (〈0.2 mm s ), the fraction of disrupted aggregates after 30 s of immersion was generally below 10%, whereas in case of the more wettable aggregates, characterized by contact angles 〈10° and higher infiltration rates (〉0.25 mm s ) more than 80% of the aggregates were disrupted. In accordance, we found a close relationship between aggregate stability and wettability with differences between and being generally small. In addition, aggregate stability turned out to be related to organic carbon content. However, correlation analysis revealed that both persistence of aggregate stability and kinetics of aggregate breakdown were more strongly affected by the contact angle, ( = 0.90 and = −0.83, respectively) and ( = 0.89 and = −0.76, respectively) than the organic carbon content ( = 0.62 and −0.52, respectively), suggesting that stability was primarily controlled by aggregate interfacial properties. Calculation of liquid penetrativity as a function of surface tension and contact angle clearly demonstrated the importance of both solid and liquid interfacial properties in determining the stability of subcritically water repellent aggregates against slaking.
Aggregate Stability ; Contact Angle ; Infiltration Rate ; Repellency Index ; Soil Water Repellency ; Surface Tension ; Geography
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