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Title: Interactions among hydraulic conductivity distributions, subsurface topography, and transport thresholds revealed by a multitracer hillslope irrigation experiment

Interactions among hydraulic conductivity distributions, subsurface topography, and lateral flow are poorly understood. We applied 407 mm of water and a suite of tracers over 51 h to a 12 by 16.5 m forested hillslope segment to determine interflow thresholds, preferential pathway pore velocities, large-scale conductivities, the time series of event water fractions, and the fate of dissolved nutrients. The 12% hillslope featured loamy sand A and E horizons overlying a sandy clay loam Bt at 1.25 m average depth. Interflow measured from two drains within an interception trench commenced after 131 and 208 mm of irrigation. Cumulative interflow equaled 49% of applied water. Conservative tracer differences between the collection drains indicated differences in flow paths and storages within the plot. Event water fractions rose steadily throughout irrigation, peaking at 50% sixteen h after irrigation ceased. Data implied that tightly held water exchanged with event water throughout the experiment and a substantial portion of preevent water was released from the argillic layer. Surface-applied dye tracers bypassed the matrix, with peak concentrations measured shortly after flow commencement, indicating preferential network conductivities of 864–2240 mm/h, yet no macropore flow was observed. Near steady-state flow conditions indicated average conductivities of 460 mm/h andmore » 2.5 mm/h for topsoils and the Bt horizon, respectively. Low ammonium and phosphorus concentrations in the interflow suggested rapid uptake or sorption, while higher nitrate concentrations suggested more conservative transport. Lastly, these results reveal how hydraulic conductivity variation and subsurface topographic complexity explain otherwise paradoxical solute and flow behaviors.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [1] ;  [4]
  1. Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA (United States)
  2. Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg)
  3. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  4. Univ. of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon SK (Canada); Univ. of Aberdeen, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Water Resources Research
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 52; Journal Issue: 8; Journal ID: ISSN 0043-1397
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
Country of Publication:
United States