The effect of macropore morphology of actual anecic earthworm burrows on water infiltration: A COMSOL simulation


Jie Zhang   Na Wen   Quan Sun   Robert Horton   Gang Liu


Soil macropores impact water infiltration. Due to the complexity of macropore structure, most macropore soil water dynamic simulations use simplified assumptions, such as cylindrical shape macropores, which do not well represent fluid flow in actual macropores. In this study, 3D digitalized structures of actual anecic earthworm burrows are obtained by combining tin casting with a 3D scanner. The in-situ earthworm burrows are imported into finite element numerical simulation software (COMSOL). Based on simulations, the effects of burrow spatial characteristics, such as number (N), length (L), average diameter (Davg), and tortuosity (τ) of partially penetrating (non-through) and fully penetrating (through) burrows, on water infiltration are clarified. The N value of non-through burrows correlates significantly with preferential flow infiltration rates (r = 1). In addition to the N value, the L value of non-through burrows is an important factor affecting preferential flow infiltration (r = 0.99). For the through earthworm burrows, macroporosity (εp) is the best predictor of Ksat. Unlike Davg and L, the τ of burrows has a low correlation coefficient with Ksat. The increase of adjacent infiltration is N-dependent for non-through burrows and is N-independent for through burrows. These findings demonstrate that actual macropore morphology can be used for numerical simulations, which provides a new pathway forward for pore-scale soil water dynamic research.


3D scanner; COMSOL simulation; Earthworm burrows; Tin casting; 3D structural characteristics; Water infiltration


The effect of macropore morphology of actual anecic earthworm burrows on water infiltration.pdf