Soil water repellency changes with depth and relationship to physical properties within wettable and repellent soil profiles

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This study explored the effect of soil water repellency (SWR) on soil hydrophysical properties with depth. Soils were sampled from two distinctly wettable and water repellent soil profiles at depth increments from 0-60 cm. The soils were selected because they appeared to either wet readily (wettable) or remain dry (water repellent) under field conditions. Basic soil properties (MWD, SOM, θv) were compared to hydrophysical properties (Ks, Sw, Se, Sww, Swh, WDPT, RIc, RIm and WRCT) that characterise or are affected by water repellency. Our results showed both soil and depth affected basic and hydrophysical properties of the soils (p <0.001). Soil organic matter (SOM) was the major property responsible for water repellency at the selected depths (0-60). Water repellency changes affected moisture distribution and resulted in the upper layer (0-40 cm) of the repellent soil to be considerably drier compared to the wettable soil. The water repellent soil also had greater MWDdry and Ks over the entire 0-60 cm depth compared to the wettable soil. Various measures of sorptivity, Sw, Se, Sww, Swh, were greater through the wettable than water repellent soil profile, which was also reflected in field and dry WDPT measurements. However, the wettable soil had subcritical water repellency, so the range of data was used to compare indices of water repellency. WRCT and RIm had less variation compared to WDPT and RIc. Estimating water repellency using WRCT and RIm indicated that these indices can detect the degree of SWR and are able to better classify SWR degree of the subcritical-repellent soil from the wettable soil.

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