Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ground-Breaking Soil Research

Soil science research is being turned upside down with the latest EPA studies how water flows through soils. Working with Oregon State University scientists, the EPA study with the assistance of new technology that allows scientists to "fingerprint" water, finds that plant root systems allow for greater uptake than previously thought.

The new study by scientists from Oregon State University and the Environmental Protection Agency showed – much to the surprise of the researchers – that soil clings tenaciously to the first precipitation after a dry summer, and holds it so tightly that it almost never mixes with other water.

The finding is so significant, researchers said, that they aren't even sure yet what it may mean. But it could affect our understanding of how pollutants move through soils, how nutrients get transported from soils to streams, how streams function and even how vegetation might respond to climate change.

Jeff McDonnell, an OSU distinguished professor and holder of the Richardson Chair in Watershed Science in the OSU College of Forestry quoted:

"We used to believe that when new precipitation entered the soil, it mixed well with other water and eventually moved to streams. We just found out that isn't true... This could have enormous implications for our understanding of watershed function, it challenges about 100 years of conventional thinking."

These latest studies, published in Nature GeoScience will shed new insights and possibly different stormwater engineering policies for the future. Read the entire article here.

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