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Mechanisms of surface runoff genesis on a subsurface drained soil affected by surface crusting: A field investigation

Abstract : Artificial drainage has been subject to widespread criticism because of its impact on water quality and because there is suspicion that it may have detrimental effects on flood genesis. The present work aims at a better understanding of the mechanisms controlling infiltration and surface runoff genesis, particularly in soils with artificial drainage and affected by surface crusting. A field experiment was conducted during one drainage season (November 2003–March 2004) in the Brie region (80 km east of Paris, France) on a subsurface drained silty soil. Water table elevation and surface runoff were monitored above the drain and at midpoint between drains. Soil water pressure head was measured at various depths and locations between the midpoint and the drain. Soil surface characteristics (microtopography and degree of structural and sedimentary crust development) were recorded regularly on the experimental site and on other plots of various drainage intensities. The results show that the first surface runoff events were induced by high water table. However, runoff was higher at midpoint between the drains because water table reached the soil surface at that point, thus considerably reducing infiltration capacity compared to that above the drain. Comparing different plots, the area with older drainage installation (1948) yielded the most surface runoff. Wider drain spacing, smaller drain depth and possible plugging may have led to a greater area of saturated soil between drains. During the winter period, the impact of raindrops induced the formation of a structural crust on the soil surface. Furthermore, the development of the sedimentary crust, which was favored by water actually flowing on the soil surface during the high water table periods could be correlated with surface runoff volume. The formation of this crust had a significant impact on runoff occurrence at the end of the winter. Therefore, poorly drained fields presented more favorable conditions for both Horton type runoff and saturation excess runoff. Drainage effectively reduces surface runoff occurrences not only by lowering the water table in winter but also by limiting soil surface sealing.
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Bénédicte Augeard, Cyril Kao, Cédric Chaumont, Michel Vauclin. Mechanisms of surface runoff genesis on a subsurface drained soil affected by surface crusting: A field investigation. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C, Elsevier, 2005, 30 (8-10), pp.598 à 610. ⟨10.1016/j.pce.2005.07.014⟩. ⟨insu-00382066⟩



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