Use of mature willows (Salix nigra) for hydraulic control of landfill-impacted groundwater in a temperate climate
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Phreatophytic trees such as willows and poplars have a large capacity for extracting shallow groundwater, as evidenced by diurnal water table fluctuations corresponding to intensified transpiration during the day. As a result, they have been employed for phytoremediation of shallow contaminated groundwater. In this study, the water extraction (i.e. pumping) capacity of mature willows (Salix nigra) to capture shallow polluted groundwater in Belle Park, the site of a former landfill in Kingston, Ontario (Canada), was assessed using continuous field measurements of sap flow and water table levels associated with a single willow tree, combined with a transient numerical model (FEFLOW). On an annual basis, the sapflow averaged 2.3 m3d-1, with 70% of the cumulative sap flow occurring during the active growing season (May to September). The calibration showed a good fit (0.91 < R2<0.97) between measured groundwater levels from three shallow wells installed near the willow and the calculated water table level fluctuations, thus confirming that the water extraction rate based on sap flow data for the willow was appropriate. At stand level, additional modelling suggests that 3.4-4.7 ha of mature willows (i.e. between 7.8% and 10.6% of the Park area), could compensate for the current water volumes extracted by the municipality using a conventional pump and treat system. The results of this study indicate that willows can play a significant role in capturing contaminated groundwater underlying Belle Park, and potentially at other sites where removal of contaminants from shallow aquifers is desired.
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