Non-Fickian transport of ammonia nitrogen in vadose zone: experiments and modeling

  • Qian Wang
  • Jianmin BianEmail author
  • Hanli Wan
  • Tianxue Gu
Original Paper


To investigate the anomalous migration process of ammonia nitrogen in vadose zone, laboratory and numerical experiments of chloride and ammonia nitrogen are used to the transport parameters and evaluate the physical and chemical heterogeneity. Batch adsorption experiments and column experiments of silty loam and silty clay were conducted to determine key transport parameters. BTCs of chloride and ammonia nitrogen are derived using three approaches: equilibrium advection–dispersion equation (ADE), mobile–immobile model (MIM), and continuous time random walk–truncated power law (CTRW-TPL). All the models show accepted fitness to the transport process of chloride, but the CTRW-TPL fits best. For ammonia nitrogen, the CTRW-TPL with the retardation term (Λ) can fully describe the tracer-BTC, especially for late-time tailing, while the ADE and MIM cannot. Concentration fluctuation and irregular behavior in silty clay are more violent than those in silty loam. Physical heterogeneity has little effect on anomalous trait of BTCs in homogenous media. And lower permeability and mass exchange between mobile and immobile region contribute to enhance the non-Fickian behavior. Adsorption heterogeneity is the major contributor to the non-Fickian behavior. The more violent anomalous behavior can be related to the higher retardation. Our results reveal the non-Fickian characteristics of ammonia nitrogen which will provide useful insights for decision-makers in the assessment and management of groundwater pollution.


Ammonia nitrogen Vadose zone Non-Fickian dispersion CTRW-TPL model Adsorption heterogeneity 


Funding information

This research reported here was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of Jilin Province with “Study on the process of water and salt nitrogen mutual feeding in water field ecosystem of soda-saline soil area” (20150101116JC) and the project of Northeast Electric Power Design Institute with “Study on the migration of pollutant components in coal-fired power plant of Northeast Electric Power Design Institute” (DG1-G01-2016).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Saudi Society for Geosciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qian Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jianmin Bian
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hanli Wan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tianxue Gu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.College of New Energy and EnvironmentJilin UniversityChangchunChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Groundwater Resources and Environment, Ministry of EducationJilin UniversityChangchunChina

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