Science Outputs

Variability of unsaturated Bromide fluxes as measured through a layered volcanic vadose zone in New Zealand

Hydrological Processes, Vol. 28 (5), 6080–6097

The measured drainage fluxes through a layered volcanic vadose zone exhibited high spatial variability as a consequence of heterogeneous flow conditions. The drainage flux variability was quantified using automated equilibrium tension lysimeters, installed in close-proximity and resulted in high variability in the Br masses recovered from a conservative tracer experiment. The primary cause of the heterogeneous flow was attributed to textural changes occurring at the interface between volcanic layers, resulting in development of funnel-flow patterns, and further enhanced by the existence of hydrophobic conditions. The Br recoveries in individual automated equilibrium tension lysimeters were used to determine the corresponding variable sizes of the surface areas contributing drainage to the lysimeters. The tracer experiment confirmed the existence of unsaturated lateral transport occurring at the sloping interface of the coarse Taupo Ignimbrite material with the silty Palaeosol layer at approximately 4.2 m depth. This study demonstrates that measurements of both flux and solute concentrations at multiple locations are essential when heterogeneous flow is suspected to be present, to be able to determine reliable estimates of contaminant leaching through the vadose zone at the plot scale. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.