Modelling susceptibility of grassland soil to macropore flow

Alaoui, Abdallah (2015). Modelling susceptibility of grassland soil to macropore flow. Journal of hydrology, 525, pp. 536-546. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.04.016

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Investigating preferential flow, including macropore flow, is crucial to predicting and preventing point sources of contamination in soil, for example in the vicinity of pumping wells. With a view to advancing groundwater protection, this study aimed (i) to quantify the strength of macropore flow in four representative natural grassland soils on the Swiss plateau, and (ii) to define the parameters that significantly control macropore flow in grassland soil. For each soil type we selected three measurement points on which three successive irrigation experiments were carried out, resulting in a total of 36 irrigations. The strength of macropore flow, parameterized as the cumulated water volume flowing from macropores at a depth of 1 m in response to an irrigation of 60 mm h−1 intensity and 1 h duration, was simulated using the dual-permeability MACRO model. The model calibration was based on the key soil parameters and fine measurements of water content at different depths. Modelling results indicate high performance of macropore flow in all investigated soil types except in gleysols. The volume of water that flowed from macropores and was hence expected to reach groundwater varied between 81% and 94% in brown soils, 59% and 67% in para-brown soils, 43% and 56% in acid brown soils, and 22% and 35% in gleysols. These results show that spreading pesticides and herbicides in pumping well protection zones poses a high risk of contamination and must be strictly prohibited. We also found that organic carbon content was not correlated with the strength of macropore flow, probably due to its very weak variation in our study, while saturated water content showed a negative correlation with macropore flow. The correlation between saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks) and macropore flow was negative as well, but weak. Macropore flow appears to be controlled by the interaction between the bulk density of the uppermost topsoil layer (0–0.10 m) and the macroporosity of the soil below. This interaction also affects the variations in Ks and saturated water content. Further investigations are needed to better understand the combined effect of all these processes including the exchange between micropore and macropore domains.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Alaoui, Abdallah








Stephan Schmidt

Date Deposited:

01 Jun 2015 15:44

Last Modified:

24 Mar 2017 15:23

Publisher DOI:





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