Soil redox dynamics under dynamic hydrologic regimes - A review

Zengyu Zhang, Alex Furman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Electron transfer (redox) reactions, mediated by soil microbiota, modulate elemental cycling and, in part, establish the redox poise of soil systems. Understanding soil redox processes significantly improves our ability to characterize coupled biogeochemical cycling in soils and aids in soil health management. Redox-sensitive species exhibit different reactivity, mobility, and toxicity subjected to their redox state. Thus, it is crucial to quantify the redox potential (Eh) in soils and to characterize the dominant redox couples therein. Several, often coupled, external drivers, can influence Eh. Among these factors, soil hydrology dominates. It controls soil physical properties that in turn further regulates Eh. Soil spatial heterogeneity and temporally dynamic hydrologic regimes yield complex distributions of Eh. Soil redox processes have been studied under various environmental conditions, including relatively static and dynamic hydrologic regimes. Our focus here is on dynamic, variably water-saturated environments. Herein, we review previous studies on soil redox dynamics, with a specific focus on dynamic hydrologic regimes, provide recommendations on knowledge gaps, and targeted future research needs and directions. We review (1) the role of soil redox conditions on the soil chemical-species cycling of organic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, redox-active metals, and organic contaminants; (2) interactions between microbial activity and redox state in the near-surface and deep subsurface soil, and biomolecular methods to reveal the role of microbes in the redox processes; (3) the effects of dynamic hydrologic regimes on chemical-species cycling and microbial dynamics; (4) the experimental setups for mimicking different hydrologic regimes at both laboratory and field scales. Finally, we identify the current knowledge gaps related to the study of soil redox dynamics under different hydrologic regimes: (1) fluctuating conditions in the deep subsurface; (2) the use of biomolecular tools to understand soil biogeochemical processes beyond nitrogen; (3) limited current field measurements and potential alternative experimental setups.

Original languageEnglish
Article number143026
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Anaerobic microsite
  • Capillary fringe
  • Chemical-species cycling
  • Drying-wetting
  • Microbial function
  • Redox potential


Dive into the research topics of 'Soil redox dynamics under dynamic hydrologic regimes - A review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this