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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Lasting Effects of Soil Compaction on Soil Water Regime Confirmed by Geoelectrical Monitoring

Romero-Ruiz, Alejandro; Linde, Niklas; Baron, Ludovic; Breitenstein, Daniel; Keller, Thomas; Or, Dani


Despite its importance for hydrological and ecological soil functioning, characterizing, and quantifying soil structure in the field remains a challenge. Traditional characterization of soil structure often relies on point measurements, more recently, we advanced the use of minimally invasive geophysical methods that operate at plot-field scales and provide information under natural conditions. In this study, we expand the application using geoelectrical and time-domain reflectometry (TDR) monitoring of soil water dynamics to infer impacts of compaction on soil structure and function. We developed a modeling scheme combining a new pedophysical model of soil electrical conductivity and a soil-structure-informed one-dimensional water flow and heat-transfer model. The model was used to interpret Direct Current (DC)-resistivity and TDR monitoring data in compacted soils at the Soil Structure Observatory (SSO) located in the vicinity of Zurich, Switzerland. We find that (1) soil compaction leads to a persistent decrease in soil electrical resistivity and (2) that compacted soils are typically drier than non-compacted soils during long drying events. The main decrease in electrical resistivity is attributed to decreasing macroporosity and increasing connectivity of soil aggregates due to compaction. Higher water losses in compacted soils are explained in terms of enhanced evaporation. Our work advances characterization of soil structure at the field scale with electrical methods by offering a physically based explanation of the impact of soil compaction on electrical properties and by interpreting DC-resistivity data in terms of soil water dynamics.


soil structure; soil compaction; hydrogeophysics; agrogeophysics; DC-resistivity; soil hydrology

Published in

Water Resources Research
2022, volume: 58, number: 2, article number: e2021WR030696

Authors' information

Romero-Ruiz, Alejandro
University of Lausanne
Linde, Niklas
University of Lausanne
Baron, Ludovic
University of Lausanne
Breitenstein, Daniel
ETH Zurich
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope
Or, Dani
ETH Zurich
Or, Dani
Desert Research Institute NSHE

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science

Publication Identifiers


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