Analysis of Soil Structure Turnover with Garnet Particles and X-Ray Microtomography.

PLoS ONE. 2016;11(7):e0159948 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0159948

 

Journal Homepage

Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

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AUTHORS

Steffen Schlüter
Hans-Jörg Vogel

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Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks

 

Abstract | Full Text

Matter turnover in soil is tightly linked to soil structure which governs the heterogeneous distribution of habitats, reaction sites and pathways in soil. Thereby, the temporal dynamics of soil structure alteration is deemed to be important for essential ecosystem functions of soil but very little is known about it. A major reason for this knowledge gap is the lack of methods to study soil structure turnover directly at microscopic scales. Here we devise a conceptual approach and an image processing workflow to study soil structure turnover by labeling some initial state of soil structure with small garnet particles and tracking their fate with X-ray microtomography. The particles adhere to aggregate boundaries at the beginning of the experiment but gradually change their position relative to the nearest pore as structure formation progresses and pores are destructed or newly formed. A new metric based on the contact distances between particles and pores is proposed that allows for a direct quantification of soil structure turnover rates. The methodology is tested for a case study about soil compaction of a silty loam soil during stepwise increase of bulk density (ρ = {1.1, 1.3, 1.5} g/cm3). We demonstrate that the analysis of mean contact distances provides genuinely new insights about changing diffusion pathways that cannot be inferred neither from conventional pore space attributes (porosity, mean pore size, pore connectivity) nor from deformation analysis with digital image correlation. This structure labeling approach to quantify soil structure turnover provides a direct analogy to stable isotope labeling for the analysis of matter turnover and can be readily combined with each other.