Abstract

Soil structure controls important physical and biological processes in soil–plant–microbial systems. Those processes are dominated by the geometry of soil pore structure, and a correct model of this geometry is critical for understanding them. Soil tomography has been shown to provide rich three-dimensional digital information on soil pore geometry. Recently, mathematical morphological techniques have been proposed as powerful tools to analyze and quantify the geometrical features of porous media. Minkowski functionals and morphological functions built over Minkowski functionals provide computationally efficient means to measure four fundamental geometrical features of three-dimensional geometrical objects, that is, volume, boundary surface, mean boundary surface curvature, and connectivity. We used the threshold and the dilation and erosion of three-dimensional images to generate morphological functions and explore the evolution of Minkowski functionals as the threshold and as the degree of dilation and erosion changes. We analyzed the three-dimensional geometry of soil pore space with X-ray computed tomography (CT) of intact soil columns from a Spanish Mediterranean vineyard by using two different management practices (conventional tillage versus permanent cover crop of resident vegetation). Our results suggested that morphological functions built over Minkowski functionals provide promising tools to characterize soil macropore structure and that the evolution of morphological features with dilation and erosion is more informative as an indicator of structure than moving threshold for both soil managements studied.

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