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J Contam Hydrol. 2002 Oct;58(3-4):299-321.

Role of macropore continuity and tortuosity on solute transport in soils: 1. Effects of initial and boundary conditions.

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Département des Sols et de Génie Agroalimentaire, Université Laval, Sainte-Foy, PQ, Canada.


Models developed for solute transport vary in their assumptions on macropore continuity and tortuosity. It is unclear how much simplification can be made in computer models to characterize macropore effects on water and solute transport through soils. The objectives of this study were to assess how the importance of macropore continuity and tortuosity varies (1) with various initial and boundary conditions (this paper) and (2) with simplifying model assumptions for macropore description (companion paper). The above assessments were made with a computer model based on 2-D Galerkin finite element solution of Richards' equation for water flow and convective-dispersive equation for solute transport. The model can simultaneously handle macropores of varying length, size, shape, and continuity. Model predictions were in agreement with laboratory data for different macropore shapes and continuities under transient flow conditions. Simulations for various initial and boundary conditions showed that surface connected macropores under ponded conditions and under high intensity rainfalls favored the rapid transport of solutes. However, solute transport was delayed if the solute was initially incorporated in the soil even when macropores were connected to the soil surface. Macropores not connected to the soil surface only slightly accelerated solute transport for any boundary conditions. Macropore tortuosity did not influence breakthrough curves as much as the continuity but greatly influenced solute distribution in the profile. The importance of macropore continuity and tortuosity on preferential transport increased with an increase in solute retardation. General guidelines for simplifying continuity and tortuosity for modeling solute transport are presented for various initial and boundary conditions.

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