THE EFFECT OF SOIL WATER REPELLENCY AND FUNGAL HYDROPHOBICITY ON SOIL WATER DYNAMICS IN THE ATHABASCA OIL SANDS
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Surface mining of the Athabasca Oil Sands of Canada is occurring at an unparalleled rate resulting in large scale disturbances over vast areas. Soil water availability for plants is one of the key issues faced when reclaiming the landscape. A factor which limits the soil water availability is soil water repellency (SWR). Soil water repellency is found on both natural and disturbed sites in this region and can cause reduced infiltration, reduced soil water storage, enhanced runoff, increased preferential flow, and reduced ecosystem productivity. Effective characterization of SWR, determination of the causes of SWR and understanding how it affects soil pores and water flow are important for environmental management. The main objective of this study is to examine the effect of SWR and fungal hydrophobicity on soil water dynamics in Athabasca Oil Sands. This was accomplished by determining the relationship between the measurement of severity and persistence of SWR and the critical water content (CWC) where SWR is greatest between different soils in the region. Examining how the water conducting porosity and soil pores are affected by SWR. Developing methods to quantify fungal strains that cause SWR and testing of these fungal strains for their ability to alter the SWR and infiltration into soil. Results show that a high severity (Contact angle) of repellency does not necessarily denote long persistence (Water Drop Penetration Time) or high CWC in soils from the region. A high severity of SWR in larger diameter pores decreased the water conducting porosity due to the larger pore contribution to the total liquid flux. The modified microscopy approach and the alcohol percentage test (APT) resulted in improved characterization of fungal hydrophobicity. Fungal strains were classified as hydrophilic, hydrophobic and chrono-amphililic based on their surface properties from these measurements. The surface property of selected fungi strains can alter the SWR in both a repellent and wettable soil and can also change the water infiltration rate. This research highlights the importance of characterization of SWR, the effects on water flow, and how fungal hydrophobicity can alter the SWR and infiltration. This will aid in improving our understanding of SWR and improve remediation efforts on water repellent soils in the Athabasca Oil Sands region.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorCheng Si, Bing
CommitteeVujanovic, Vladimir; Siciliano, Steve; Barbour, Lee; Van Rees, Ken; de Freitas, Renato
Copyright DateMarch 2014
Soil Water Repellency, Degree, Persistence, Critical water content, Conducting porosity, Fungal hydrophobicity, Infiltration