Water vapour adsorption on water repellent sandy soils

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Abstract

Soil sorptivity is considered a key parameter describing early stages of water (rain) infiltration into a relatively dry soil and it is related to build-up complexity of the capillary system and soil wettability (contact angles of soil pore walls). During the last decade an increasing water repellency of sandy soils under pine forest and grassland vegetation has been frequently observed at Mlaky II location in SW Slovakia. The dry seasons result in uneven wetting of soil and up to hundredfold decrease in soil sorptivity in these vegetated soil as compared to reference sandy material, which was out of the reach of ambient vegetation and therefore readily wettable. As far as water binding to low moisture soils is governed by adsorption processes, we hypothesized that soil water repellency detected by water drop penetration test and by index of water repellency should also influence the water vapour adsorption parameters (monolayer water content, Wm, specific surface area, A, maximum adsorption water, Wa, maximum hygroscopic water MH, fractal dimension, DS and adsorption energies, Ea) derived from BET model of adsorption isotherms. We found however, that the connection of these parameters to water repellency level is difficult to interpret; nevertheless the centres with higher adsorption energy prevailed evidently in wettable materials. The water repellent forest and grassland soils reached less than 80% of the adsorption energy measured on wettable reference material. To get more conclusive results, which would not be influenced by small but still present variability of field materials, commercially available homogeneous siliceous sand was artificially hydrophobized and studied in the same way, as were the field materials. This extremely water repellent material had two-times lower surface area, very low fractal dimension (close to 2) and substantially lower adsorption energy as compared to the same siliceous sand when not hydrophobized.

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