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Sieving crusts and macrofaunal activity control soil water repellency in semiarid environments: Evidences from SE Spain

AuthorsContreras, Sergio ; Cantón, Yolanda ; Solé-Benet, Albert
KeywordsRunoff hydrograph
Organic matter
Rabbit latrines
Mica schist soil
Issue Date23-May-2008
CitationGeoderma 145(3-4): 252-258 (2008)
AbstractQuick overland flow peaks observed in runoff hydrographs from rainfall experiments carried out on mica schist soils in Rambla Honda (SE Spain) suggest development of soil water repellency (SWR). In order to spatially characterize its occurrence and severity and the factors controlling it, potential water repellency was measured in 120 soil samples using the WDPT test at laboratory conditions. Actual water repellency measurements were additionally performed at field conditions in order to increase our knowledge about the occurrence of this phenomenon. Samples were taken in bare soils (n = 23), beneath plant clumps of Retama sphaerocarpa (n = 23) and Anthyllis cytisoides (n = 10) and from soils affected by rabbit latrines (n = 9). Soil organic matter was also determined in 47 selected samples with a broad range of potential water repellency values. Results indicate that occurrence of SWR in Rambla Honda (potential water repellency values) varies in the three soil dimensions, areal and depth. The areal variation is due to the patchy pattern of organic matter and the variation with depth of the washed-in layer of sieving crusts developed in colluvial and alluvial soils after abandonment by agriculture. These layers act as physical barriers that restrict or impede the translocation of hydrophobic compounds to deeper layers. Such three-dimensional heterogeneity stresses the importance of the sampling scheme used for adequate SWR assessment. The severity of water repellency is generally reduced in this area because of the relatively scarce organic matter content and its spatial variability. A weak exponential relationship was found between the severity of potential water repellency and total organic carbon (r^2 = 0.38; p-value < 0.01). Extreme values of actual and potential water repellency were found in rabbit latrines, stressing the importance of macrofauna in its development. Water repellency has an important impact on the local hydrology controlling runoff–runon between vegetated and bare patches, and possibly flash flooding during heavy rains in early autumn or after long dry periods. Review of a series of runoff hydrographs from previous rainfall simulations has distinguished four types of runoff patterns based on the occurrence of SWR.
Description7 pages, 7 figures.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoderma.2008.03.019
Appears in Collections:(EEZA) Artículos
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