Geoderma, 15 June 2017, Vol.296, pp.86-97
Organic soils are the most important source of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in surface water. To date, most studies have focused on natural and re-wetted peatlands, but in Central Europe a large proportion of organic soils are drained and under agricultural use. Furthermore, measures such as deep ploughing or sand addition have been conducted to improve trafficability and have resulted in topsoil horizons consisting of a peat-sand mixture. Very little is known about DOC losses from such soils. Moreover, peat soils frequently feature both mobile zones, characterised by active water and solute transport, and immobile zones, which exchange solutes with the mobile zone by diffusion. Surprisingly, however, the effects of this dual porosity on DOC transport have not yet been explored. This study investigated the physicochemical controls on DOC concentrations in a peat-sand mixture by means of a saturated column experiment with undisturbed columns. The soil came from a former bog in northern Germany where peat layers remaining after peat extraction were mixed with the underlying mineral soil by ploughing. Three pumping rates and two levels of electrical conductivity (EC) were applied. The transport properties of the soil were obtained by analysing breakthrough curves of potassium bromide using the transport model STANMOD, which is based on the two-region non-equilibrium concept. The results of the column study were compared to DOC concentrations measured bi-weekly for two years at the field site from where the columns were taken. Despite a similar texture and soil organic carbon (SOC) content, the fraction of the mobile zone in the columns varied between 51% and 100% of total porosity. Thus even heavily degraded organic soils mixed with sand still showed a dual porosity comparable to degraded peat soils. Percolating the columns with the high EC solution caused low pH values, probably due to ion exchange and cation bridging. The combination of high EC and low pH greatly decreased DOC concentrations at the outlet of the columns. DOC concentrations decreased and fluxes increased as the pumping rates increased. Taking pore water velocity in the mobile zone into account could help to explain the differences between the columns. Overall, transport of DOC did not seem to be limited by production of DOC, but by rate-limited exchange processes. In contrast to the column experiment, field concentrations of DOC were much higher and were not related to pH, but increased with higher electrical conductivity. These higher concentrations could be explained by low pore water velocities and the slightly higher SOC content in the field. This first experiment on DOC transport in peat-sand mixtures taking the dual-porosity nature of organic soils into account clearly demonstrated the importance of pore water velocity and thus the residence time for DOC concentrations. While hydrochemical conditions are frequently addressed in laboratory studies, there is a need for improved understanding of their interaction with hydrology and soil-physical properties, especially when attempting to interpret DOC data on different spatial and temporal scales.
Dissolved Organic Carbon ; Dual Porosity ; Tracer Experiment ; Bog ; Water Quality ; Agriculture
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