06 Dec 2022
06 Dec 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Impacts of soil management and climate on saturated and near-saturated hydraulic conductivity: analyses of the Open Tension-disk Infiltrometer Meta-database (OTIM)

Guillaume Blanchy1, Lukas Albrecht2, Gilberto Bragato3, Sarah Garré1, Nicholas Jarvis4, and John Koestel2,4 Guillaume Blanchy et al.
  • 1Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), Melle, Belgium
  • 2Agroscope, Reckenholzstrasse 191, 8046 Zürich, Switzerland
  • 3Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA), Via Po, 14, 00198 Roma, Italy
  • 4Department of Soil and Environment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), P.O. Box 7014, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract. Saturated and near-saturated soil hydraulic conductivities Kh (mm.h-1) determine the partitioning of precipitation into surface runoff and infiltration and are fundamental to soils’ susceptibility to preferential flow. Recent studies have found indications that climate factors influence Kh, which is highly relevant in the face of climate change. In this study, we investigated relationships between pedo-climatic factors and Kh and also evaluated effects of land use and soil management. To this end, we collated the Open Tension-disk Infiltrometer Meta-database (OTIM), which contains 1297 individual data entries from 172 different publication sources. We analysed a spectrum of saturated and near-saturated hydraulic conductivities at matric potentials between 0 to 100 mm. We found that methodological details like the direction of the wetting sequence or the choice of method for calculating infiltration rates to hydraulic conductivities had a large impact on the results. We therefore restricted ourselves to a subset of 466 of the 1297 data entries with similar methodological approaches. Correlations between Ks and Kh at higher supply tensions decreased especially close to saturation, indicating a different flow mechanism at and very close to saturation as towards the dry end of the investigated tension range. Climate factors were better correlated to topsoil near-saturated hydraulic conductivities at supply tensions ≥ 30 mm than soil texture, bulk density and organic carbon content. We find it most likely that the climate variables are proxies for soil macropore networks created by respective biological activity, pedogenesis and climate specific land use and management choices. Due to incomplete documentation in the source publications of OTIM, we could investigate only a few land use types and agricultural management practices. Land use, tillage system and soil compaction significantly influenced Kh, with effect sizes appearing comparable to the ones of soil texture and soil organic carbon. The data in OTIM show experimental bias is present, introduced by the choice of measurement time relative to soil tillage, experimental design or data evaluation procedures. The establishment of best-practice rules for tension-disk infiltrometer measurements would therefore be helpful. Future studies are needed to investigate how climate shapes soil macropore networks and how land use and management can be adapted to improve soil hydraulic properties. Both tasks require large amounts of new measurement data with improved documentation on soil biology and land use and management history.

Guillaume Blanchy et al.

Status: open (until 21 Feb 2023)

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Guillaume Blanchy et al.

Guillaume Blanchy et al.


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Short summary
We collated the Open Tension-disk Infiltrometer Meta-database (OTIM). We analyzed topsoil hydraulic conductivities at supply tensions between 0 to 100 mm of 466 data entries. We found indications of different flow mechanisms at saturation than at tensions > 20 mm. Climate factors were better correlated to near-saturated hydraulic conductivities than soil properties. Land use, tillage system, soil compaction and experimenter bias significantly influenced K to a similar degree as soil properties.