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Posted Fri Jan 22 2010: from Oregon State University, via EurekAlert:
Findings challenge a century of assumptions about soil hydrology http://apocadocs.com/s.pl?1264128348
A 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.... "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," he said. "It challenges about 100 years of conventional thinking."... The study found in one test, for instance, that after the first large rainstorm in October, only 4 percent of the precipitation entering the soil ended up in the stream -- 96 percent was taken up and held tightly by soil around plants to recharge soil moisture. A month later when soil moisture was fully recharged, 55 percent of precipitation went directly into streams. And as winter rains continue to pour moisture into the ground, almost all of the water that originally recharged the soil around plants remains held tightly in the soil it never moves or mixes.
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