Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 308–319 | Cite as

Phosphorus transportation in runoff as influenced by cationic non-classic polarization: a simulation study

  • Ying Chen
  • Rui TianEmail author
  • Hang LiEmail author
Soils, Sec 3 • Remediation and Management of Contaminated or Degraded Lands • Research Article



Phosphorus (P) transportation from agricultural soil to surface water is a major contributor to P pollution in the environment, and particle phosphorus (PP) transportation is the major contributor to the total P transportation. The intensity of soil particle interaction and transportation is strongly influenced by ion-surface reactions; however, quantitative study regarding the influence of soil particle interactions on P transportation during runoff is still lacking.

Materials and methods

A simulation study on P transportation of an Entisol during runoff was conducted in this study. To quantitatively characterize the non-classic polarizability of cations on P transport in runoff, the soil was first saturated with Li+, Na+, and K+. The saturated soil layer (5 cm × 5 cm area, 3-cm thickness) was packed in a synthetic glass tray for each experiment, and the slope of the soil surface was set as 30°. The runoff water was replaced by electrolyte solutions of KNO3, NaNO3, and LiNO3 with concentrations of 0.0001, 0.001, 0.01, and 0.1 mol/L, respectively, and the solution temperature was set as 298 K. The height of water dropping was set to 3 cm. Each runoff simulation experiment lasted for 90 min. Runoff and sediment were collected by time, and the solids and solution in the collected suspensions were separated by a high-speed centrifuge. The dissolved P (DP) in the supernatant and the PP in the sediment were measured.

Results and discussion

The amount of PP transportation for the K+ treatment was 45 or 69 times smaller than that for the Na+ and Li+ treatment. The amount of DP transportation for the K+ treatment was 1.7 times higher than that for the Na+ and Li+ treatment. Additionally, increasing soil electrolyte concentration decreased both PP and DP transportation from soil to surface water. Cationic non-classic polarization could quantitatively explain the observed experimental results in PP transportation. Soil could strongly enhance the polarizability of cations; the observed polarizabilities of K+, Na+, and Li+ reached 507, 124, and 45.8 Å3, respectively, but their classic values are only 0.814, 0.139, and 0.0285 Å3, respectively. K+ could strongly decrease PP transportation because K+ had the strongest polarizability.


The cationic non-classic polarization strongly decreased the electric field around soil particles, thus strongly decreasing the electrostatic repulsive forces between adjacent soil particles in aggregate, which decreased PP transportation in runoff. K+ cation with larger non-classic polarizability, relative to Na+ and Li+, decreased the PP transportation. The soil electric field and specific ion effects were found to play an important role in DP transportation.


Cationic polarization Phosphorous transportation Soil electric field Soil particle interaction forces Specific ion effects 


Funding information

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 41501241 and 41530855) and Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Colleges (grant numbers XDJK2019B037 and SWU116049).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chongqing Key Laboratory of Soil Multi-scale Interfacial Process, College of Resources and EnvironmentSouthwest UniversityChongqingChina

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