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An environmental soil test to determine the intrinsic risk of sediment and phosphorus mobilisation from European soils.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • P. J. A. Withers
  • R. A. Hodgkinson
  • E. Barberis
  • M. Presta
  • H. Hartikainen
  • J. Quinton
  • N. Miller
  • I. Sisak
  • P. Strauss
  • A. Mentler
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>09/2007
<mark>Journal</mark>Soil Use and Management
Issue numberIssue Supplement s1
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)57-70
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Methodologies are required to help identify soils that are vulnerable to both suspended sediment (SS) and phosphorus (P) transfer in land run-off to combat the adverse impacts of agriculture on water quality. A laboratory test that quantifies dispersed particles and associated P in the same suspension was developed to estimate the potential mobilization of SS and P due to rainfall impact from 26 European soils with varied soil physical and chemical properties and P inputs. The test recovers an aliquot of the clay and fine silt (<20 μm) fraction of soils after gently shaking in distilled water for 1 min at a 1:50 soil-to-solution ratio and measures the dry residue, total P and dissolved (<0.45 μm) P content. The results of the test correlated well (r2 = 0.7–0.8) with the amounts of SS, total P and dissolved P in overland flow generated by indoor simulated rainfall (intensity 60 mm h−1 for 30 min and a 5° slope). Variation in SS and particulate P mobilization was linked to soil pH, organic matter (or clay) and sesquioxide content, although a multiple regression analysis showed these factors accounted for no more than 55% of this variation. Ranking showed that the soils generating the most sediment did not necessarily generate the most P loss due to variable degrees of P enrichment of the particulate fraction and variable contributions of dissolved P. Particulate P enrichment was related weakly (r2 = 0.5) to soil total P, while dissolved P fractions were predicted well (r2 = 0.8–0.9) by conventional soil P tests (water and Olsen). The environmental soil test has a potential role in identifying the comparative risk of sediment and P mobilization from critical source areas connected via both surface and subsurface pathways, and in providing data for incorporation into models predicting sediment and P transfer at the field and catchment scale.