Freeze thaw cycles and soil water content effects on infiltration rate and bulk density of three Saskatchewan soils.

Fouli, Y., Cade-Menun, B.J., and Cutforth, H.W. (2013). "Freeze thaw cycles and soil water content effects on infiltration rate and bulk density of three Saskatchewan soils.", Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 93(4), pp. 485-496. doi : 10.4141/cjss2012-060  Access to full text

Abstract

Many soils at high latitudes or elevations freeze and thaw seasonally. More frequent freeze–thaw cycles (FTCs) may affect ecosystem diversity and productivity because freeze–thaw cycles cause changes in soil physical properties and affect water movement in the landscape. This study examined the effects of FTCs (0, 1, 5, and 10) and antecedent soil water content [at soil water potentials (SWP) −1.5, −0.033 and −0.02 MPa] on the infiltration rate of three Saskatchewan soils (a clay, a loam, and a loamy sand). A tension infiltrometer was used at tensions [water potentials of the tension infiltrometer (WPT)] −5, −10 and −15 cm. Infiltration rates increased with increasing SWPs for the loam and clay soils due to higher infiltrability into drier soils. Infiltration rates decreased with increasing SWPs for the loamy sand, probably the result of less surface tension, unimodal porosity, and increased gravitational potential. Infiltration rates either decreased or did not change with increasing FTCs, and this may be due to increased water viscosity as temperatures approach freezing. Also, ice may have formed in soil pores after frequent FTCs, causing lower infiltration rates. Infiltration rates for clay at −1.5 MPa were higher than for loam or loamy sand, probably the result of clay mineralogy and potential shrinking and cracking. Soil texture and initial water content had a significant effect on infiltration rates, and FTCs either maintained or lowered infiltration rates.

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