Synchrotron microtomographic quantification of geometrical soil pore characteristics affected by compaction
Abstract. Soil compaction degrades soil structure and affects water, heat, and gas exchange as well as root penetration and crop production. The objective of this study was to use X-ray computed microtomography (CMT) techniques to compare differences in geometrical soil pore parameters as influenced by compaction of two different aggregate size classes. Sieved (diameter < 2 mm and < 0.5 mm) and repacked (1.51 and 1.72 Mg m−3) Hamra soil cores of 5 by 5 mm (average porosities were 0.44 and 0.35) were imaged at 9.6 μm resolution at the Argonne Advanced Photon Source (synchrotron facility) using X-ray CMT. Images of 58.9 mm3 volume were analyzed using 3-Dimensional Medial Axis (3-DMA) software. Geometrical characteristics of the spatial distributions of pore structures (pore radii, volume, connectivity, path length, and tortuosity) were numerically investigated. Results show that the coordination number (CN) distribution and path length (PL) measured from the medial axis were reasonably fit by exponential relationships P(CN) = 10−CN∕Co and P(PL) = 10−PL∕PLo, respectively, where Co and PLo are the corresponding characteristic constants. Compaction reduced porosity, average pore size, number of pores, and characteristic constants. The average pore radii (63.7 and 61 µm; p < 0.04), largest pore volume (1.58 and 0.58 mm3; p = 0.06), number of pores (55 and 50; p = 0.09), and characteristic coordination number (3.74 and 3.94; p = 0.02) were significantly different between the low-density than the high-density treatment. Aggregate size also influenced measured geometrical pore parameters. This analytical technique provides a tool for assessing changes in soil pores that affect hydraulic properties and thereby provides information to assist in assessment of soil management systems.