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  • Schlüter, Steffen  (13)
  • Vogel, Hans-Jorg  (13)
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  • 1
    Language: English
    In: PLoS ONE, 01 January 2016, Vol.11(7), p.e0159948
    Description: Matter turnover in soil is tightly linked to soil structure which governs the heterogeneous distribution of habitats, reaction sites and pathways in soil. Thereby, the temporal dynamics of soil structure alteration is deemed to be important for essential ecosystem functions of soil but very little is known about it. A major reason for this knowledge gap is the lack of methods to study soil structure turnover directly at microscopic scales. Here we devise a conceptual approach and an image processing workflow to study soil structure turnover by labeling some initial state of soil structure with small garnet particles and tracking their fate with X-ray microtomography. The particles adhere to aggregate boundaries at the beginning of the experiment but gradually change their position relative to the nearest pore as structure formation progresses and pores are destructed or newly formed. A new metric based on the contact distances between particles and pores is proposed that allows for a direct quantification of soil structure turnover rates. The methodology is tested for a case study about soil compaction of a silty loam soil during stepwise increase of bulk density (ρ = {1.1, 1.3, 1.5} g/cm3). We demonstrate that the analysis of mean contact distances provides genuinely new insights about changing diffusion pathways that cannot be inferred neither from conventional pore space attributes (porosity, mean pore size, pore connectivity) nor from deformation analysis with digital image correlation. This structure labeling approach to quantify soil structure turnover provides a direct analogy to stable isotope labeling for the analysis of matter turnover and can be readily combined with each other.
    Keywords: Sciences (General)
    E-ISSN: 1932-6203
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  • 2
    Language: English
    In: Advances in Water Resources, August 2012, Vol.44, pp.101-112
    Description: ► New averaging approach that conserves hydraulic non-equilibrium during rapid infiltration of water. ► New indicators to describe hydraulic non-equilibrium quantitatively. ► Direct link between front morphology and hydraulic non-equilibrium. ► Insights into how structural connectivity affects hydraulic non-equilibrium. ► Shortcomings of an upscaled Richards model extended by hydraulic non-equilibrium. Water infiltration into heterogeneous, structured soil leads to hydraulic non-equilibrium across the infiltration front. That is, the water content and pressure head are not in equilibrium according to some static water retention curve. The water content increases more rapidly in more conductive regions followed by a slow relaxation towards an equilibrium state behind the front. An extreme case is preferential infiltration into macropores. Since flow paths adapt to the structural heterogeneity of the porous medium, there is a direct link between structure and non-equilibrium. The aim of our study is to develop an upscaled description of water dynamics which conserves the macroscopic effects of non-equilibrium and which can be directly linked to structural properties of the material. A critical question is how to define averaged state variables at the larger scale. We propose a novel approach based on flux-weighted averaging of pressure head, and compare its performance to alternative methods for averaging. Further, we suggest some meaningful indicators of hydraulic non-equilibrium that can be related to morphological characteristics of infiltration fronts in quantitative terms. These methods provide a sound basis to assess the impact of structural connectivity on hydraulic non-equilibrium. We demonstrate our approach using numerical case studies for infiltration into two-dimensional heterogeneous media using three different structure models with distinct differences in connectivity. Our results indicate that an increased isotropic, short-range connectivity reduces non-equilibrium, whereas anisotropic structures that are elongated in the direction of flow enforce it. We observe a good agreement between front morphology and effective hydraulic non-equilibrium. A detailed comparison of averaged state variables with results from an upscaled model that includes hydraulic non-equilibrium outlines potential improvements in the description of non-equilibrium dynamics including preferential flow in simplified, upscaled models based on Richards equation.
    Keywords: Transient Flow ; Upscaling ; Pressure Head Averaging ; Hydraulic Non-Equilibrium ; Preferential Flow ; Connectivity ; Engineering
    ISSN: 0309-1708
    E-ISSN: 1872-9657
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  • 3
    Language: English
    In: Nature, 22 February 2018, Vol.554(7693), pp.423
    Keywords: Soil ; Plant Roots -- Chemistry
    ISSN: 00280836
    E-ISSN: 1476-4687
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  • 4
    Language: English
    In: Vadose Zone Journal, 2013, Vol.12(3), p.0
    Description: Soils are structured on multiple spatial scales, originating from inhomogeneities of the parent material, pedogenesis, soil organisms, plant roots, or tillage. This leads to heterogeneities that cause variability of local measurements of hydraulic state variables and affects the flow behavior of water in soil. Whereas in real-world systems, the true underlying structures can never be absolutely known, it is appealing to employ synthetic or "virtual" experiments for assessing general properties of flow in porous media and grasping the main physical mechanisms. With this aim, three two-dimensional virtual realities with increasing structural complexity, representing cultivated soils with hierarchical spatial heterogeneity on multiple scales were constructed by the interdisciplinary research group Virtual Institute of the Helmholtz Association (INVEST). At these systems, numerical simulations of water dynamics including a heavy rain, a redistribution, and a long-lasting evaporation period were performed. The technical aspects of the construction of the virtual soils and results of the forward simulations have been presented in a paper by Schluter et al. (2012). In this follow-up paper, we use inverse modeling to investigate measurements in virtual vertical soil profiles, mimicking typical field monitoring campaigns with moisture content and matric potential sensors placed at five depths. Contrary to the real situation, we can interpret observed data, their variability, estimated hydraulic properties, and predicted water balance in the light of the known truth. Our results showed that measurements, particularly those of water contents, varied strongly with measuring position. Using data from single profiles in systems similar to our virtual soils thus will lead to very different estimates of the soil hydraulic properties. As a consequence, the correct calculation of the water balance is rather a lucky coincidence than the rule. However, the average of the predicted water balances obtained from the one-dimensional simulations, and the estimated soil hydraulic properties agreed very well with those attained from the two-dimensional systems.
    Keywords: Soils ; Hydrogeology ; Boundary Interactions ; Evaporation ; Grain Size ; Heterogeneous Materials ; Hydrodynamics ; Infiltration ; Interpretation ; Inverse Problem ; Irrigation ; Matric Head ; Measurement ; Moisture ; One-Dimensional Models ; Quantitative Analysis ; Simulation ; Size Distribution ; Soils ; Spatial Distribution ; Tdr Data ; Two-Dimensional Models ; Unsaturated Zone ; Van Genuchten-Mualem Parameters ; Water ; Water Balance;
    ISSN: Vadose Zone Journal
    E-ISSN: 1539-1663
    Source: CrossRef
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  • 5
    In: Ecohydrology, September 2018, Vol.11(6), pp.n/a-n/a
    Description: By applying the newly developed flow cell (FC) concept, this study investigated the impact of small‐scale spatial variations (millimetre to centimetre) in organic matter (OM) composition (diffusive reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy), biological activity (zymography), and wettability (contact angle [CA]) on transport processes (tracer experiments, radiography). Experiments were conducted in five undisturbed soil slices (millimetre apart), consisting of a sandy matrix with an embedded loamy band. In the loamy band increased enzyme activities and OM (10 mm apart) were found compared with the sand matrix, with no interrelations although spatial autocorrelation ranges were up to 7 cm. CAs were increased (0–110°) above the loamy band and were negatively correlated with acid phosphatase. Missing correlations were probably attributed to texture variations between soil slices. A general correlation between CA and C content (bulk) were confirmed. Variability in texture and hydraulic properties led to the formation of heterogeneous flow patterns and probably to heterogeneously distributed interfacial properties. The new FC concept allows process evaluation on the millimetre scale to analyse spatial relations, that is, between small‐scale textural changes on transport processes and biological responses. The concept has been proved as a versatile tool to analyse spatial distribution of biological and interfacial soil properties in conjunction with the analysis of complex micro‐hydraulic processes for undisturbed soil samples. The concept may be improved by additional nondestructive imaging methods, which is especially challenging for the detection of small‐scale textural changes.
    Keywords: Drift Spectroscopy ; Extracellular Enzyme Activity ; Flow Cell ; Soil Water Repellency ; Transport Processes ; Undisturbed Soil ; X‐Ray Radiography
    ISSN: 1936-0584
    E-ISSN: 1936-0592
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  • 6
    Language: English
    In: Soil & Tillage Research, January 2018, Vol.175, pp.205-216
    Description: In recent years, there has been an increased application of conservation-oriented tillage techniques, where instead of being turned the soil is only loosened or not tilled at all. Strip tillage, a special form of conservation tillage, results in small-scale structural differences, since tillage is performed only within the seed row, while the soil between seed rows is not tilled. However, tillage always impacts upon physical soil properties and processes. A combined application of conventional soil mechanical methods and X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) is employed here in order to investigate small-scale structural differences in a chernozem (texture 0–30 cm: silt loam) located in central Germany under strip tillage (within and between seed rows) compared to no tillage and mulch tillage. Apart from recording changes over time (years: 2012, 2014, 2015) to dry bulk density and saturated conductivity at soil depths 2–8 and 12–18 cm, stress-strain tests were conducted to map mechanical behaviour for a load range of 5–550 kPa at a soil depth of 12–18 cm (year 2015). Mechanical precompression stress was determined from the stress-dry bulk density curves. In addition, computed tomography scans were created followed by quantitative image analysis of the morphometric parameters mean macropore diameter, macroporosity, connectivity and anisotropy of the same soil samples. For strip tillage between seed rows and no tillage, a significant increase in dry bulk density was observed over time compared to strip tillage within the seed row and mulch tillage. This was more pronounced at a soil depth of 2–8 cm than at 12–18 cm. Despite higher dry bulk density, strip tillage between the seed row displayed also an increasing saturated conductivity compared to strip tillage within the seed row and mulch tillage. The computed tomography scans showed that the macropores became more compressed and soil aggregates were pushed together as mechanical stress increased, with the aggregate arrangement being transformed down into a coherent soil mass. The soil mechanical and morphometric parameters supported each other in terms of what they revealed about the mechanical properties of the soil structures. For instance, in the strip tillage between seed rows and no tillage treatments, the lack of soil tillage not only resulted in higher dry bulk densities, but also higher aggregate densities, mechanical precompression stress values, mean macropore diameters as well as lower macroporosity and connectivity values compared to mulch tillage and strip tillage within the seed row. The computed tomography parameters are therefore highly suitable for providing Supplementary information about the compaction process. Overall, this study showed that strip tillage combines the advantages of no tillage and a deeper, soil conservation-oriented primary tillage because, on a small scale, it creates two distinct soil structures which are beneficial in terms of optimal plant growth as well as mechanical resistance by driving over the soil.
    Keywords: Pre-Compression Stress ; Dry Bulk Density ; Aggregate Density ; Image Analysis ; Soil Compaction ; Agriculture
    ISSN: 0167-1987
    E-ISSN: 1879-3444
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  • 7
    Language: English
    In: Geoderma, 01 September 2018, Vol.325, pp.37-48
    Description: Organic particles including microorganisms are a significant fraction of the mobile organic matter (MOM) pool that contributes to initial pedogenesis. Still, the dynamics and the interplay of the multitude of processes that control the mobilization, transport, and retention of MOM are vastly unclear. We studied this interplay using an ‘artificial soil’ as model for a young, unstructured soil with defined initial composition employing a novel two-layer column experiment. The upstream layer was composed of a mixture of well-defined mineral phases, a sterile organic matter source and a diverse, natural microbial inoculant mimicking an organic-rich topsoil. The downstream layer, mimicking the subsoil, was composed of the mineral phases, only. Columns were run under water-unsaturated flow conditions with multiple flow interruptions to reflect natural flow regimes and to detect possible non-equilibrium processes. Pore system changes caused by flow were inspected by scanning electron microscopy and computed micro-tomography. MOM-related physicochemical effluent parameters and bacterial community diversity and abundance were assessed by molecular analysis of the effluent and the solid phase obtained after the long-term irrigation experiment (75 d). Tomographic data showed homogeneous packing of the fine-grained media (sandy loam). During flow, the initially single-grain structured artificial soil showed no connected macropores. In total, 6% of the initial top layer organic matter was mobile. The release and transport of particulate (1.2%) and dissolved organic matter (4.8%) including bacteria were controlled by non-equilibrium conditions. Bacterial cells were released and selectively transported to downstream layer resulting in a depth-dependent and selective establishment of bacterial communities in the previously sterile artificial soil. This study underlines the importance of bacterial transport from the surface or topsoil for colonization and maturation of downstream compartments. This initial colonization of pristine surfaces is the major step in forming biogeochemical interfaces - the prominent locations of intensive biological activity and element turnover that seem to play a major role for the functioning of soil.
    Keywords: Mobile Organic Matter ; Unsaturated Two-Layer Column Experiment ; Experimental Pedogenesis ; Artificial Soil ; Computed Micro-Tomography ; Molecular Analysis ; Agriculture
    ISSN: 0016-7061
    E-ISSN: 1872-6259
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  • 8
    Language: English
    In: Frontiers in Environmental Science, 01 April 2018, Vol.6
    Description: Soil-borne nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions have a high spatial and temporal variability which is commonly attributed to the occurrence of hotspots and hot moments for microbial activity in aggregated soil. Yet there is only limited information about the biophysical processes that regulate the production and consumption of N2O on microscopic scales in undisturbed soil. In this study, we introduce an experimental framework relying on simplified porous media that circumvents some of the complexities occuring in natural soils while fully accounting for physical constraints believed to control microbial activity in general and denitrification in particular. We used this framework to explore the impact of aggregate size and external oxygen concentration on the kinetics of O2 consumption, as well as CO2 and N2O production. Model aggregates of different sizes (3.5 vs. 7 mm diameter) composed of porous, sintered glass were saturated with a defined growth medium containing roughly 109 cells ml−1 of the facultative anaerobic, nosZ-deficient denitrifier Agrobacterium tumefaciens with N2O as final denitrification product and incubated at five different oxygen levels (0–13 vol-%). We demonstrate that the onset of denitrification depends on the amount of external oxygen and the size of aggregates. Smaller aggregates were better supplied with oxygen due to a larger surface-to-volume ratio, which resulted in faster growth and an earlier onset of denitrification. In larger aggregates, the onset of denitrification was more gradual, but with comparably higher N2O production rates once the anoxic aggregate centers were fully developed. The normalized electron flow from the reduced carbon substrate to N-oxyanions (edenit-/etotal- ratio) could be solely described as a function of initial oxygen concentration in the headspace with a simple, hyperbolic model, for which the two empirical parameters changed with aggregate size in a consistent way. These findings confirm the important role of soil structure on N2O emissions from denitrification by shaping the spatial patterns of microbial activity and anoxia in aggregated soil. Our dataset may serve as a benchmark for constraining or validating spatially explicit, biophysical models of denitrification in aggregated soil.
    Keywords: Greenhouse Gas Emissions ; Denitrification Kinetics ; Microbial Hotspots ; Microsites ; Anoxic Aggregate Centers ; Agrobacterium Tumefaciens ; Environmental Sciences
    E-ISSN: 2296-665X
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  • 9
    Language: English
    In: Frontiers in Microbiology, 01 August 2018, Vol.9
    Description: Over the last 60 years, soil microbiologists have accumulated a wealth of experimental data showing that the bulk, macroscopic parameters (e.g., granulometry, pH, soil organic matter, and biomass contents) commonly used to characterize soils provide insufficient information to describe quantitatively the activity of soil microorganisms and some of its outcomes, like the emission of greenhouse gasses. Clearly, new, more appropriate macroscopic parameters are needed, which reflect better the spatial heterogeneity of soils at the microscale (i.e., the pore scale) that is commensurate with the habitat of many microorganisms. For a long time, spectroscopic and microscopic tools were lacking to quantify processes at that scale, but major technological advances over the last 15 years have made suitable equipment available to researchers. In this context, the objective of the present article is to review progress achieved to date in the significant research program that has ensued. This program can be rationalized as a sequence of steps, namely the quantification and modeling of the physical-, (bio)chemical-, and microbiological properties of soils, the integration of these different perspectives into a unified theory, its upscaling to the macroscopic scale, and, eventually, the development of new approaches to measure macroscopic soil characteristics. At this stage, significant progress has been achieved on the physical front, and to a lesser extent on the (bio)chemical one as well, both in terms of experiments and modeling. With regard to the microbial aspects, although a lot of work has been devoted to the modeling of bacterial and fungal activity in soils at the pore scale, the appropriateness of model assumptions cannot be readily assessed because of the scarcity of relevant experimental data. For significant progress to be made, it is crucial to make sure that research on the microbial components of soil systems does not keep lagging behind the work on the physical and (bio)chemical characteristics. Concerning the subsequent steps in the program, very little integration of the various disciplinary perspectives has occurred so far, and, as a result, researchers have not yet been able to tackle the scaling up to the macroscopic level. Many challenges, some of them daunting, remain on the path ahead. Fortunately, a number of these challenges may be resolved by brand new measuring equipment that will become commercially available in the very near future.
    Keywords: Soil Microbiology ; Biodiversity ; Upscaling ; Tomography ; X-Ray Computed ; Nanosims Imaging ; Biology
    E-ISSN: 1664-302X
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  • 10
    Language: English
    In: Geoderma, 01 July 2019, Vol.345, pp.63-71
    Description: Soil structure is not static but undergoes continuous changes due to a wide range of biotic and abiotic drivers such as bioturbation and the mechanical disturbance by tillage. This continuous alteration of soil structure beyond the pure swelling and shrinking of some stable structure is what we refer to as soil structure dynamics. It has important consequences for carbon turnover in soil as it controls how quickly soil organic matter gets occluded from or exposed to mineralization. So far there are hardly any direct observations of the rate at which soil pores are formed and destroyed. Here we employ are recently introduced labeling approach for soil structure that measures how quickly the locations of small garnet particles get randomized in soil as a measure for soil structure dynamics. We investigate the effect of desiccation crack dynamics on pore space attributes in general and soils structure turnover in particular using X-ray microtomography for repeated wetting-drying cycles. This is explored for three different soils with a range of soil organic matter content, clay content and different clay mineralogy that were sieved to a certain aggregate size fraction (0.63–2 mm) and repacked at two different bulk density levels. The total magnitude of desiccation crack formation mainly depended on the clay content and clay mineralogy. Higher soil organic matter content led to a denser crack pattern with smaller aperture. Wetting-drying cycles did not only effect visible macroporosity (〉8 μm), but also unresolved mesoporosity. The changes in macroporosity were higher at lower bulk density. Most importantly, repeated wetting-drying cycles did not lead to a randomization of distances between garnet particles and pores. This demonstrates that former failure zones are reactivated during subsequent drying cycles. Hence, wetting-drying resulted in reversible particle displacement and therefore would not have triggered the exposure of occluded carbon that was not already exposed during the previous drying event.
    Keywords: Soil Structure ; Desiccation Cracks ; X-Ray Tomography ; Macropores ; Clay Mineralogy ; Carbon Turnover ; Agriculture
    ISSN: 0016-7061
    E-ISSN: 1872-6259
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