Articles | Volume 16, issue 7
Research article
12 Jul 2012
Research article |  | 12 Jul 2012

Functional test of pedotransfer functions to predict water flow and solute transport with the dual-permeability model MACRO

J. Moeys, M. Larsbo, L. Bergström, C. D. Brown, Y. Coquet, and N. J. Jarvis

Abstract. Estimating pesticide leaching risks at the regional scale requires the ability to completely parameterise a pesticide fate model using only survey data, such as soil and land-use maps. Such parameterisations usually rely on a set of lookup tables and (pedo)transfer functions, relating elementary soil and site properties to model parameters. The aim of this paper is to describe and test a complete set of parameter estimation algorithms developed for the pesticide fate model MACRO, which accounts for preferential flow in soil macropores. We used tracer monitoring data from 16 lysimeter studies, carried out in three European countries, to evaluate the ability of MACRO and this "blind parameterisation" scheme to reproduce measured solute leaching at the base of each lysimeter. We focused on the prediction of early tracer breakthrough due to preferential flow, because this is critical for pesticide leaching. We then calibrated a selected number of parameters in order to assess to what extent the prediction of water and solute leaching could be improved.

Our results show that water flow was generally reasonably well predicted (median model efficiency, ME, of 0.42). Although the general pattern of solute leaching was reproduced well by the model, the overall model efficiency was low (median ME = −0.26) due to errors in the timing and magnitude of some peaks. Preferential solute leaching at early pore volumes was also systematically underestimated. Nonetheless, the ranking of soils according to solute loads at early pore volumes was reasonably well estimated (concordance correlation coefficient, CCC, between 0.54 and 0.72). Moreover, we also found that ignoring macropore flow leads to a significant deterioration in the ability of the model to reproduce the observed leaching pattern, and especially the early breakthrough in some soils. Finally, the calibration procedure showed that improving the estimation of solute transport parameters is probably more important than the estimation of water flow parameters. Overall, the results are encouraging for the use of this modelling set-up to estimate pesticide leaching risks at the regional-scale, especially where the objective is to identify vulnerable soils and "source" areas of contamination.