Saturated and unsaturated salt transport in peatfrom a constructed fen

TitleSaturated and unsaturated salt transport in peatfrom a constructed fen
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsSimhayov, R.B., T.K.D. Weber, and J.S. Price
Start Page63

The underlying processes governing solute transport in peat from an experimentally constructed fenpeatland were analyzed by performing saturated and unsaturated solute breakthrough experiments using Na+ and Clas reactive and non-reactive solutes, respectively. We tested the performance of three solute transport models, including the classical equilibrium convection–dispersion equation (CDE), a chemical non-equilibrium one-site adsorption model (OSA) and a model to account for physical non-equilibrium, the mobile–immobile (MIM) phases. The selection was motivated by the fact that the applicability of the MIM in peat soils finds a wide consensus. However, results from inverse modeling and a robust statistical evaluation of this peat provide evidence that the measured breakthrough of the conservative tracer, Cl, could be simulated well using the CDE. Furthermore, the very high Damköhler number (which approaches infinity) suggests instantaneous equilibration between the mobile and immobile phases underscoring the redundancy of the MIM approach for this particular peat. Scanning electron microscope images of the peat show the typical multi-pore size distribution structures have been homogenized sufficiently by decomposition, such that physical non-equilibrium solute transport no longer governs the transport process. This result is corroborated by the fact the soil hydraulic properties were adequately described using a unimodal van Genuchten–Mualem model between saturation and a pressure head of∼−1000 cm of water. Hence, MIM was not the most suitable choice, and the long tailing of the Na+break-through curve was caused by chemical non-equilibrium. Successful description was possible using the OSA model. To test our results for the unsaturated case, we conducted an unsaturated steady-state evaporation experiment to drive Na+and Cltransport. Using the parameterized transport models from the saturated experiments, we could numerically simulate the unsaturated transport using Hydrus-1-D. The simulation showed a good prediction of observed values, confirming the suitability of the parameters for use in a slightly unsaturated transport simulation. The findings improve the understanding of solute redistribution in the constructed fen and imply that MIM should not be automatically assumed for solute transport in peat but rather should be evidence based.