Main content area

A new method to characterize the spatial structure of soil macropore networks in effects of cultivation using computed tomography

Hu, Youbing, Feng, Jie, Yang, Tao, Wang, Chao
Hydrological processes 2014 v.28 no.9 pp. 3419-3431
algorithms, burrows, computed tomography, farming systems, fauna, geographic information systems, hydraulic conductivity, macropores, models, new methods, prediction
Soil macropore networks are subsurface connected void spaces caused by processes such as fracture of soils, micro‐erosion and fauna burrows. Axial X‐ray computed tomography (CT) scanning provides a convenient means of recording the spatial structure of soil macropore networks. The objective of this study were to (1) based on CT technique and GIS digitized image method, construction a new technique for tracing, visualizing and measuring the soil macropore networks and (2) investigate the effects of farming activities on soil macropore networks characteristics. Our technique uses left‐turning and nine‐direction judgment methods, a combination of the layer‐by‐layer analysis method and the up‐down tracking algorithm. The characteristics for the overall structure patterns of macropores, the spatial distribution of the macropore networks and each single macropore network can be conveniently identified by our technique. Eight undisturbed soil columns from fields with two distinct land uses (under cultivation and not been cultivated) and four different depths (0–20, 20–40, 40–60 and 60–80 cm) were investigated. The soil columns were scanned using X‐ray CT at a voxel resolution of 0.075 × 0.075 × 3.000 mm. Results indicate that farming activities can destroy the initial structure of macropores, and those remaining are mainly small‐sized and medium‐sized networks with lower extension and hydraulic conductivity. The network properties show a significant difference between upper and lower layer. The results can provide beneficial reference to further research centered on non‐equilibrium flow prediction and chemical transport modeling in field soils.