San José Martínez, F., F. J. Muñoz Ortega, F. J. Caniego Monreal, A. N. Kravchenko, and W. Wang. 2015. Soil aggregate geometry: Measurements and morphology. Geoderma 237-238:36-48.
Aggregates provide physical microenvironments for microorganisms, the vital actors of soil systems, and thus play a major role as both, an arena and a product of soil carbon stabilization and dynamics. The surface of an aggregate is what enables exchange of the materials and air and water fluxes between aggregate exterior and interior regions. We made use of 3D images from X-ray CT of aggregates and mathematical morphology to provide an exhaustive quantitative description of soil aggregate morphology that includes both intra-aggregate pore space structure and aggregate surface features. First, the evolution of Minkowski functionals (i.e. volume, boundary surface, curvature and connectivity) for successive dilations of the solid part of aggregates was investigated to quantify its 3D geometrical features. Second, the inner pore space was considered as the object of interest. We devised procedures (a) to define the ends of the accessible pores that are connected to the aggregate surface and (b) to separate accessible and inaccessible porosity. Geometrical Minkowski functionals of the intra-aggregate pore space provide the exhaustive characterization of the inner structure of the aggregates. Aggregates collected from two different soil treatments were analyzed to explore the utility of these morphological tools in capturing the impact on their morphology of two different soil managements, i.e. conventional tillage management, and native succession vegetation treatment. The quantitative tools of mathematical morphology distinguished differences in patterns of aggregate structure associated to the different soil managements.
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