Leaching and Illuviation

Authored by: Lynn E. Moody

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:


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Soils provide essential ecological services, including the absorption, filtration, storage, and transmission of water. Maintaining soil quality is essential for these services to continue to be provided, and understanding how soils form and function in the ecosystem is essential for maintenance of soil quality. Among the many soil-forming processes are translocations of materials through soils. Translocation processes include leaching and the paired processes of eluviation and illuviation. As well as natural materials—solutes and particles produced by weathering—there are many contaminants that enter soil by natural or anthropogenic means. Contaminants either translocate through soils as solutes or adsorbed onto soil mineral and organic particles by various physicochemical reactions. These physicochemical reactions include outer-sphere and inner-sphere adsorption and chelation of metals by dissolved organic matter. Contaminants fastened to soil particles are effectively removed from the soil solution and are, thus, not reactive. Desorption, however, enables contaminants to become biologically active. Recent and current research involves quantification of sorption behavior of various contaminants, determining the mechanisms and kinetics of adsorption and desorption reactions, as well as the soil and environmental conditions conducive to adsorption and desorption of contaminants. Thus, environmental quality relates to leaching and illuviation, as the processes by which contaminants move through soil.

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