Analysing the preferential transport of lead in a vegetated roadside soil using lysimeter experiments and a dual-porosity model


S. Roulier. E-mail:


Lead (Pb) from the traffic accumulates in roadside soils, which are usually vegetated to control erosion. Plants release soluble organic substances that bind Pb. Root macropores also create preferential pathways through which water can flow. Both these processes may enhance Pb mobility. We used large lysimeters to investigate the transport of Pb in a contaminated (445 mg Pb kg−1) soil under vegetation (Phacelia tanacetifolia). Despite the high soil pH (7.2), Pb leached into the drainage water during the 5-month experiment. The fast response of the system to intense rainfall events indicated the presence of preferential flow. By comparing Pb concentrations in filtered and unfiltered leachates, we found that Pb was leaching primarily on suspended material. An increase in Pb concentration in the leachate at the end of the experiment indicated the remobilization of Pb, possibly by decaying vegetation. We parameterized the dual-porosity MACRO model using the experimental results. The simple parameterization of MACRO used to simulate the Pb concentrations in the drainage water produced an overall model efficiency of 0.81: MACRO simulated the Pb concentrations well, but it failed to predict the observed increase of Pb in the leachate at the end of the experiment. The model gave the best prediction of Pb concentrations with a small partition coefficient (kd= 150 cm3 g−1). Long-term simulations of Pb mobility showed that for our specific conditions preferential flow was the main process determining the fate of Pb.