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Image processing-based study of soil porosity and its effect on water movement through Andosol intact columns

Abstract : The soil pore network and marcoporosity are important factors affecting water and solute transport. The transfer of contaminants to water resources is of particular importance in the Valle de Bravo watershed as it provides 10% of the drinking water for the 20 million inhabitants of Mexico City. This watershed is composed mainly of Andosols with unique mineralogical and physical characteristics. Soil porosity is usually examined on thin sections, using various image analysis techniques. We propose a novel methodology combining image analysis and a displacement experiment to study relationships between soil structure and water tracer transport parameters. H218O displacement experiments were conducted through intact soil columns sampled at three depths from a representative cultivated Andosol profile. The soil structure and pore characteristics were obtained by image analysis on thin sections obtained from each column at the end of the displacement experiment. The total 2D porosity (for pores larger than 50 μm) varied from 80% of the total section area in the topsoil to around 60% in the subsoil. Tubular pores were the most abundant in the soil profile, but ploughing of the topsoil had destroyed sections of these pores and replaced them with packing pores. Water transport in the intact subsoil columns was always in physical non-equilibrium, showing the existence of preferential flow pathways. In the topsoil, one column out of three showed no preferential flow, demonstrating that soil ploughing also homogenised pore connections. Pore connectivity was larger in the ploughed topsoil than in their deeper soil horizon counterparts. Our methodology offers a 2D quantitative characterisation of the macroporous network at 50 μm resolution and the determination of water transport parameters on the same intact soil samples. 3D characterisation of soil porosity using X-ray computed tomography (CT) gives a better picture of pore connection but usually has lower spatial resolution and a larger cost.
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Submitted on : Thursday, September 3, 2009 - 7:08:23 PM
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B. Prado, Céline Duwig, J. Márquez, P. Delmas, P. Morales, et al.. Image processing-based study of soil porosity and its effect on water movement through Andosol intact columns. Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier Masson, 2009, 96 (10), pp.1377-1386. ⟨10.1016/j.agwat.2009.04.012⟩. ⟨insu-00413369⟩



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