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Geoelectrical measurement and modeling of biogeochemical breakthrough behavior during microbial activity

Lee Slater (1)*, Fred Day-Lewis (2), Dimitrios Ntarlagiannis1, Michael O’Brien (1) and Nathan Yee (3)
(1) Dept. of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ
(2) USGS, Office of Groundwater, Branch of Geophysics, Storrs CT
(3) School of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
* corresponding author


We recorded bulk electrical conductivity (σb) along a soil column during microbially-mediated selenite oxyanion reduction. Effluent fluid electrical conductivity and early time σb were modeled according to classic advective-dispersive transport of the nutrient medium. However, σb along the column exhibited strongly bimodal breakthrough which cannot be explained by changes in the electrical conductivity of the pore fluid. We model the anomalous breakthrough by adding a conduction path in parallel with the fluid phase, with a time dependence described by a microbial population-dynamics model. We incorporate a delay time to show that breakthrough curves along the column satisfy the same growth model parameters and offer a possible explanation based on biomass-limited growth that is delayed with distance from influent of the nutrient medium. Although the mechanism causing conductivity enhancement in the presence of biomass is uncertain, our results strongly suggest that biogeochemical breakthrough curves have been captured in geoelectrical datasets.

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Final copy as submitted to Geophysical Research Letters for publication as: Slater, L., Day-Lewis, F.D., Ntarlagiannis, D., O'Brien, M., and Yee, N., 2009, Geoelectrical measurement and modeling of biogeochemical breakthrough behavior during microbial activity: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 36, L14402, doi:10.1029/2009GL038695.

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