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Wageningen University and Researchcenter (2013)

Modeling the effects of saline groundwater and irrigation water on root zone salinity and sodicity dynamics in agro-ecosystems

Shah, S.H.H.

Titre : Modeling the effects of saline groundwater and irrigation water on root zone salinity and sodicity dynamics in agro-ecosystems

Auteur : Shah, S.H.H.

Université de soutenance : Wageningen University and Researchcenter

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2013

Résumé partiel
Recent trends and future projections suggest that the need to produce more food and fibre for the world’ s expanding population will lead to an increase in the use of marginal-quality water and land resources (Bouwer, 2000 ; Gupta and Abrol, 2000 ; Wild, 2003). This is particularly relevant to less-developed, arid and semi-arid countries, in which problems of soil and water quality degradation are common (Qadir and Oster, 2004). The aim, therefore, should be to increase yield per unit of land rather than the area cultivated. More efforts are needed to improve productivity as more lands are becoming degraded. It is estimated that about 15% of the total land area of the world has been degraded by soil erosion and physical and chemical degradation, including soil salinization (Wild, 2003).

The main sources of soil salinity and sodicity development are groundwater and irrigation water. In discharge areas of the landscape, water exits from groundwater to the soil surface bringing the salts dissolved in it. The driving force for upward movement of water and salts is evaporation from the soil plus plant transpiration. Salt accumulation is high when the water table depth is less than a threshold. However, this threshold depth may vary depending on soil hydraulic properties and climatic conditions. Groundwater associated salinity and sodicity affects around 350 X 104km2in the world (Szabolcs, 1989).

In this thesis, the focus is to quantify and understand the salinity and sodicity dynamics, and the feedback on dynamics in groundwater dependent agro-ecosystems. First we have considered the impact of salt coming from groundwater on capillary fluxes and on the root zone water and salt dynamics. Groundwater can be a source of both water and salts in semi-arid areas, and therefore capillary pressure induced upward water flow may cause root zone salinization. To identify which conditions result in hazardous salt concentrations in the root zone, we combined the mass balance equations for salt and water, further assuming a Poisson-distributed daily rainfall and brackish groundwater quality. For the water fluxes (leaching, capillary upflow, and evapotranspiration), we account for osmotic effects of the dissolved salt mass using Van‘t Hoff’s law. Root zone salinity depends on salt transport via capillary flux and on evapotranspiration, which concentrates salt in the root zone. Both a wet climate and shallow groundwater lead to wetter root zone conditions, which in combination with periodic rainfall enhances salt removal by leaching. For wet climates, root zone salinity (concentrations) increases as groundwater is more shallow (larger groundwater influence). For dry climates, salinity increases as groundwater is deeper due to a drier root zone and less leaching. For intermediate climates, opposing effects can push the salt balance in either way. Root zone salinity increases almost linearly with groundwater salinity. With a simple analytical approximation, maximum concentrations can be related with the mean capillary flow rate, leaching rate, water saturation and groundwater salinity, for different soils, climates and groundwater depths.

Mots clés : groundwater / saline water / modeling / irrigation water / roots / salinity / agroecosystems / soil physics / soil salinity


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Page publiée le 1er juillet 2013, mise à jour le 29 mai 2022