Laboratory testing of Beerkan infiltration experiments for assessing the role of soil sealing on water infiltration

S. Di Prima*, P. Concialdi, L. Lassabatere, R. Angulo-Jaramillo, M. Pirastru, A. Cerdà, S. Keesstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Soil surface sealing is a major cause of decreased infiltration rates and increased surface runoff and erosion during a rainstorm. The objective of this paper is to quantify the effect of surface sealing on infiltration for 3 layered soils with different textures for the upper layer and investigate the capability of BEST procedure to catch the formation of the seal and related consequences on water infiltration. Rainfall experiments were carried out to induce the formation of the seal. Meanwhile, Beerkan infiltration runs were carried out pouring water at different distances from the soil surface (BEST-H versus BEST-L runs, with a High and Low water pouring heights, respectively) for the same type of layered soils. Then, we determined saturated soil hydraulic conductivity, Ks, values from rainfall simulation and Beerkan infiltration experiments. Rainfall simulations carried out on soil layers having different depths allowed to demonstrate that infiltration processes were mainly driven by the seal and that Ks estimates were representative of the seal. Mean Ks values, estimated for the late-phase, ranged from 13.9 to 26.2 mm h−1. Soil sealing induced an increase in soil bulk density by 38.7 to 42.1%, depending on the type of soil. Rainfall-deduced Ks data were used as target values and compared with those estimated by the Beerkan runs. BEST-H runs proved more appropriate than BEST-L runs, those last triggering no seal formation. The predictive potential of the three BEST algorithms (BEST-slope, BEST-intercept and BEST-steady) to yield a proper Ks estimate for the seal was also investigated. BEST-slope yielded negative Ks values in 87% of the cases for BEST-H runs. Positive values were obtained in 100% of the cases with BEST-steady and BEST-intercept. However, poorer fits were obtained with the latter algorithm. The comparison of Ks estimates with rainfall-deduced estimates allowed to identify BEST-steady algorithm with BEST-H run as the best combination. The method proposed in this study could be used to easily measure the seal's saturated hydraulic conductivity of an initially undisturbed bare soil directly impacted by water with minimal experimental efforts, using small volumes of water and easily transportable equipment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-384
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Beerkan infiltration experiment
  • BEST algorithms
  • Rainfall simulation
  • Saturated soil hydraulic conductivity
  • Soil sealing

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