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Is soil water repellency a function of soil order and proneness to drought? A survey of soils under pasture in the North Island of New Zealand

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We conducted a survey of the occurrence of soil water repellency (SWR) in the top 40 mm of soils across 50 sites under pastoral land use in the North Island of New Zealand. The sites represented ten soil orders and covered five classes of proneness to drought. We found at least a moderate persistence of SWR in 35 out of 50 sites (70%) in summer 2009/2010 and a moderate potential persistence of SWR in 49 out of 50 sites (98%) after drying the soils. The soil orders had an influence on the degree and persistence of SWR. Both the degree and persistence of SWR were greatest for the soil orders Podzol, Organic and Recent, and least for the soil order Allophanic. On average, all soil orders had contact angles larger than 94°, with the exception of the soil order Allophanic. We found no relationship between SWR and drought‐proneness. The degree of SWR and its persistence for air‐dried samples were positively correlated with soil carbon and nitrogen contents and negatively with soil bulk density. The persistence of SWR for field‐fresh samples was additionally negatively correlated with the soil water content. We identified a close relationship (R 2 = 0.84) between the degree and persistence of SWR. The survey results indicate that SWR is at least moderately persistent in a soil with a contact angle larger than 93.8°. Using a water‐drop penetration time of 60 s as the threshold for SWR being moderately persistent, we found that moderately persistent SWR occurred only for volumetric water contents below 45% or a relative saturation of 60%. The latter can be considered to be a generic value of the critical water content for the onset of SWR at the scale of the North Island of New Zealand.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2011

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