ISMC2021-99, updated on 02 Nov 2022
3rd ISMC Conference ─ Advances in Modeling Soil Systems
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Clays are not created equal – effects of clay mineral type on soil hydraulic and mechanical properties

Peter Lehmann1, Ben Leshchinsky2, Surya Gupta1, Ben Mirus3, Samuel Bickel1, Ning Lu4, and Dani Or1,5
Peter Lehmann et al.
  • 1ETH Zurich, Soil and Terrestrial Environmental Physics, Zurich, Switzerland (
  • 2College of Forestry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA
  • 3Landslides Hazards Program U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, USA
  • 4Colorado School of Mines, Golden, USA
  • 5Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV, USA

Clay minerals dominate the soil colloidal fraction and often carry the largest specific surface area – a property that controls various soil hydraulic and mechanical properties (SHMPs; e.g. water retention, permeability, and internal friction). Differences in microscale structure among clay mineral types in tropical and temperate regions affect the specific surface area and result in higher permeability and internal friction angle values for tropical soils with inactive kaolinite clay minerals. Presently, the soil clay size fraction used to parameterize SHMPs with pedotransfer functions (PTFs) ignores clay mineral type, leading to inconsistent parameter representation. In this study, we present new PTFs informed by clay minerals, enabling enhanced estimation of friction angle and saturated hydraulic conductivity. To capture higher conductivity and lower air entry values in tropical soils, we developed a hierarchical packing model and validated this new PTF approach using literature data from various tropical regions. We leveraged recent global maps of clay minerals to demonstrate that a strong climatic and spatial segregation of active and inactive clays enable spatially resolved consideration of clay mineral type in SHMP estimation. We applied these clay-informed PTFs to improve SHMP representation regionally with implications for a wide range of hydrological and geomechanical Earth surface processes.

How to cite: Lehmann, P., Leshchinsky, B., Gupta, S., Mirus, B., Bickel, S., Lu, N., and Or, D.: Clays are not created equal – effects of clay mineral type on soil hydraulic and mechanical properties, 3rd ISMC Conference ─ Advances in Modeling Soil Systems, online, 18–22 May 2021, ISMC2021-99,, 2021.