Kravchenko, A. N., W. Wang, A. J. Smucker, and M. L. Rivers. 2011. Long-term differences in tillage and land use affect intra-aggregate pore heterogeneity. Soil Science Society of America Journal 75:1658-1666.
Recent advances in computed tomography provide measurement tools to study internal structures of soil aggregates at micrometer resolutions and to improve our understanding of specific mechanisms of various soil processes. Fractal analysis is one of the data analysis tools that can be helpful in evaluating heterogeneity of the intra-aggregate internal structures. The goal of this study was to examine how long-term tillage and land use differences affect intra-aggregate pore heterogeneity. The specific objectives were: (i) to develop an approach to enhance utility of box-counting fractal dimension in characterizing intra-aggregate pore heterogeneity; (ii) to examine intra-aggregate pores in macro-aggregates (4–6 mm in size) using the computed tomography scanning and fractal analysis, and (iii) to compare heterogeneity of intra-aggregate pore space in aggregates from loamy Alfisol soil subjected to 20 yr of contrasting management practices, namely, conventional tillage (chisel plow) (CT), no-till (NT), and native succession vegetation (NS). Three-dimensional images of the intact aggregates were obtained with a resolution of 14.6 μm at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL. Proposed box-counting fractal dimension normalization was successfully implemented to estimate heterogeneity of pore voxel distributions without bias associated with different porosities in soil aggregates. The aggregates from all three studied treatments had higher porosity associated with large (>100 μm) pores present in their centers than in their exteriors. Pores 15 to 60 μm were equally abundant throughout entire aggregates but their distributions were more heterogeneous in aggregate interiors. The CT aggregates had greater numbers of pores 15 to 60 μm than NT and NS. Distribution of pore voxels belonging to large pores was most heterogeneous in the aggregates from NS, followed by NT and by CT. This result was consistent with presence of very large pores associated with former root channels in NT and NS aggregates. Our findings indicate that mechanisms of macro-aggregate formation might differ in their importance in different land use and management practices.
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