Soil Lysimeter Excavation for Coupled Hydrological, Geochemical, and Microbiological Investigations
Studying co-evolution of hydrological and biogeochemical processes in the subsurface of natural landscapes can enhance the understanding of coupled Earth-system processes. Such knowledge is imperative in improving predictions of hydro-biogeochemical cycles, especially under climate change scenarios. We present an experimental method, designed to capture sub-surface heterogeneity of an initially homogeneous soil system. This method is based on destructive sampling of a soil lysimeter designed to simulate a small-scale hillslope. A weighing lysimeter of one cubic meter capacity was divided into sections (voxels) and was excavated layer-by-layer, with sub samples being collected from each voxel. The excavation procedure was aimed at detecting the incipient heterogeneity of the system by focusing on the spatial assessment of hydrological, geochemical, and microbiological properties of the soil. Representative results of a few physicochemical variables tested show the development of heterogeneity. Additional work to test interactions between hydrological, geochemical, and microbiological signatures is planned to interpret the observed patterns. Our study also demonstrates the possibility of carrying out similar excavations in order to observe and quantify different aspects of soil-development under varying environmental conditions and scale.