Abstract

Water and solute fluxes in lignitic mine soils and in many other soils are often highly heterogeneous. Here, heterogeneity reflects dumping-induced inclined structures and embedded heterogeneous distributions of sediment mixtures and of lignitic fragments. Such two-scale heterogeneity effects may be analyzed through the application of two-dimensional models for calculating water and solute fluxes. The objective of this study was to gain more insight to what extent spatial heterogeneity of soil hydraulic parameters contributes to preferential flow at a lignitic mine soil. The simulations pertained to the “Bärenbrücker Höhe” site in Germany where previously water fluxes and applied tracers had been monitored with a cell lysimeter, and from where a soil block had been excavated for detailed two-dimensional characterization of the hydraulic parameters using pedotransfer functions. Based on those previous studies, scenarios with different distributions of hydraulic parameters were simulated. The results show that spatial variability of hydraulic parameters alone can hardly explain the observed flow patterns. The measured bromide distributions both in the leachate and the residual concentrations in the soil could not be described at all. Consequently, the observed preferential flow at the site was probably caused by additional factors such as hydrophobicity, the presence of root channels, anisotropy in the hydraulic conductivity, and heterogeneous root distributions. To study the relative importance of these other factors by applying two-dimensional flow models to such sites, the experimental database must be improved, especially with regard to the effects of hydrophobicity and the impacts of high-root-density zones. Single-continuum model approaches may be insufficient for such sites.

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