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Impact of rainfall structure and climate change on soil and groundwater salinization

Abstract

Irrigated areas, mainly in arid regions, are threatened by salinization processes. Climate change inducing temperature rise and rainfall depletion are expected to enhance these processes. Numerical models are often used to predict salinization in the root zone as well as water and solute fluxes reaching groundwater. Climatic data, mainly rainfall, have an important influence on the estimation of those fluxes. The present paper studies the impact of rainfall structure and climate change on soil and groundwater salinization. Soil samples were collected in three drip-irrigated plots in Korba semi-arid coastal plain in Tunisia during dry and wet seasons. Collected field data (water contents and soil salinities) are used to define the initial solute and flow conditions and to estimate the soil hydraulic parameters for numerical modeling. Daily rainfall structure and annual rainfall transition under both Markov Chain and climate change (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) are assessed. Different climatic scenarios are then introduced as boundary conditions in HYDRUS-1D, to test the influence of rainfall on the salinity evolution in the soil profile and groundwater. Results show that both annual rainfall amounts and daily structure have an impact on soil concentrations and solute fluxes quantities reaching groundwater. The influence of rainfall paths is more important for larger unsaturated zone thickness when considering the dry and median rainfall conditions. Climate change scenarios show significant accumulation of salts in the root zone implying the imperative use of adequate irrigation practices.

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Acknowledgements

The present work was partially funded by The Swiss National Science Foundation Grants No. 207020-110017/1 and supported by the ERANET-MED project CHAAMS “Global CHange: Assessment and Adaptation to Mediterranean region water Scarcity” ERANETMED3-062.

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Correspondence to Fairouz Slama.

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Slama, F., Gargouri-Ellouze, E. & Bouhlila, R. Impact of rainfall structure and climate change on soil and groundwater salinization. Climatic Change 163, 395–413 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02789-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02789-0

Keywords

  • Markov chain
  • Standardized precipitation index
  • Climate change
  • Irrigation return flow
  • Salinization
  • HYDRUS-1D