Nicole Balliston


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Heterogeneity of the peat profile and its role in unsaturated sodium chloride rise at field and laboratory scales
Nicole Balliston, Jonathan S. Price
Vadose Zone Journal, Volume 19, Issue 1

Resource extraction in Canada's boreal ecozone increases the risk of contaminant release into the area's extensive bog and fen peatlands. Lateral spreading, then upwards transport of solutes into the vadose zone of these moss‐dominated ecosystems, could be toxic to vegetation. To evaluate the rate and character of contaminant rise in a subarctic bog, vadose zone‐specific conductance and water content were measured in four hummocks ∼5 m downslope of a 45‐d 300‐mg L−1 NaCl release. Four 30‐cm‐deep hummock peat mesocosms were extracted adjacent to the release site for an unsaturated evaporation‐driven NaCl breakthrough experiment and subsequent parameterization. The field rate of solute accumulation was slower in near‐surface (0–5 cm) peat, where low water contents limited pore connectivity. Solute accumulation was reduced by downward flushing by rain, though this was lesser in near surface moss where solute remained held in small disconnected pores. In the laboratory, Cl− rise reached the 15‐cm depth in all mesocosms by Day 65. Sodium rise was 2.2 times slower, likely due to adsorption to the peat matrix. Rates of upwards solute movement were highly variable; the highest rates occurred in the mesocosm with small but hydrologically conductive pores near the surface, and the lowest occurred where vascular roots disrupted the physical structure of the peat. This research demonstrates that solute spilled into a bog peatland is likely to rise and be retained in the vadose zone. However, hydraulic and solute transport behaviors are sensitive to the vertical structure of peat, underscoring the need for extensive sampling and parameter characterization.

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Improved groundwater table and L-band brightness temperature estimates for Northern Hemisphere peatlands using new model physics and SMOS observations in a global data assimilation framework
Michel Bechtold, Gabriëlle J. M. De Lannoy, Rolf H. Reichle, Dirk Roose, Nicole Balliston, Iuliia Burdun, K. J. Devito, Juliya Kurbatova, Maria Strack, Evgeny A. Zarov
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 246

Abstract There is an urgent need to include northern peatland hydrology in global Earth system models to better understand land-atmosphere interactions and sensitivities of peatland functions to climate change, and, ultimately, to improve climate change predictions. In this study, we introduced for the first time peatland-specific model physics into an assimilation scheme for L-band brightness temperature (Tb) data from the Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission to improve groundwater table estimates. We conducted two sets of model-only and data assimilation experiments using the Catchment Land Surface Model (CLSM), applying (over peatlands only) in one of them a peatland-specific adaptation (PEATCLSM). The evaluation against in-situ measurements of peatland groundwater table depth indicates the superiority of PEATCLSM model physics and additionally improved performance after assimilating SMOS Tb observations. The better performance of PEATCLSM over nearly all Northern Hemisphere peatlands is further supported by the better agreement between SMOS Tb observations and Tb estimates from the model-only and data assimilation runs. Within the data assimilation scheme, PEATCLSM reduces Tb observation-minus-forecast residuals and leads to reduced data assimilation updates of water storage components and, thus, reduced water budget imbalances in the assimilation system.