The vadose zone is defined as the portion of the terrestrial subsurface that extends from the land surface downward to the water table. As such, it comprises the surface soil (the rooting zone), the underlying subsoil, and the capillary fringe that directly overlies the water table. The unsaturated zone between the rooting zone and the capillary fringe is termed the "intermediate zone" (Chapelle, 1993). The vadose zone has also been defined as the unsaturated zone, since the sediment pores and/or rock fractures are generally not completely water filled, but instead contain both water and air. The latter characteristic results in the term "zone of aeration" to describe the vadose zone. The terms "vadose zone," "unsaturated zone", and "zone of aeration" are nearly synonymous, except that the vadose zone may contain regions of perched water that are actually saturated. The term "subsoil" has also been used for studies of shallow areas of the subsurface immediately below the rooting zone. This review focuses almost exclusively on the unsaturated region beneath the soil layer since there is already an extensive body of literature on surface soil microbial communities and process, e.g., Paul and Clark (1989), Metting (1993), Richter and Markowitz, (1995), and Sylvia et al. (1998); whereas the deeper strata of the unsaturated zone have only recently come under scrutiny for their microbiological properties.
Revised: December 16, 2010 |
Published: January 17, 2001
Kieft T.L., and F.J. Brockman. 2001.Vadose zone microbiology. In Subsurface Microbiology and Biogeochemistry, edited by JK Fredrickson and M Fletcher. 141-169. New York, New York:Wiley and Sons (Wiley-Liss).PNNL-SA-37205.