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Pierret et al., 2002

3D reconstruction and quantification of macropores using X-ray computed tomography and image analysis

Pierret, A., Capowiez, Y., Belzunces, L., Moran, C.
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Axial X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning provides a convenient means of recording the three-dimensional form of soil structure. The technique has been used for nearly two decades, but initial development has concentrated on qualitative description of images. More recently, increasing effort has been put into quantifying the geometry and topology of macropores likely to contribute to preferential flow in soils.Here we describe a novel technique for tracing connected macropores in the CT scans. After object extraction, three-dimensional mathematical morphological filters are applied to quantify the reconstructed structure. These filters consist of sequences of so-called erosions and/or dilations of a 32-face structuring element to describe object sizes, distances and volumes of influence. The tracing and quantification methodologies were tested on a set of undisturbed soil cores collected in a Swiss pre-alpine meadow where a new earthworm species (Aporrectodea nocturna) was accidentally introduced. Given the reduced number of samples analysed in this study, the results presented only illustrate the potential of the method to reconstruct and quantify macropores. Our results suggest that the introduction of the new species induced very limited change to the soil structure; for example, no difference in total macropore length or mean diameter was observed. However, in the zone colonised by the new species, individual macropores tended to have a longer average length, be more vertical and be further apart at some depth.Overall, the approach proved well suited to the analysis of the three-dimensional architecture of macropores. It provides a framework for the analysis of complex structures, which are less satisfactorily observed and described using 2D imaging.

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