Soil structure – the spatial arrangement of pores and solid material in soil – is highly relevant to all soil functions. The growth of plants, the storage and filtering of water, the cycling of nutrients and the quality of soil as a habitat for an overwhelming biodiversity – they all depend on the porous structure of soil. Vice versa, this structure is shaped by all the physical, chemical and biological processes within soil. This is why soil structure is an ideal indicator for soil quality and soil functions.
On the other hand, it is very hard to visualize and to quantify this structure since soil is opaque and structure is complex. Nowadays however, tomographic techniques are available. They are able to make soil transparent so that its beauty becomes visible and measurable. Yet, the techniques are limited to specialized labs and require special computing skills.
Together with experts from the UFZ-Department of Soil System Science, the BonaRes Centre has now launched a web application – The Soil Structure Library – which allows researchers to upload their 3D images of soil structure typically obtained from X-ray tomography. Images are analyzed by a standardized procedure to characterize pore structure in terms of pore size distribution, pore connectivity as well as shape and extend of pore-solid interfaces. This service is for free. Users just have to provide some relevant information on the soil including soil type, soil depth, land use and geographical location. Another requirement is freely available data for the scientific community. This way, an open access library for soil structure from all over the world is built up successively which will help to identify characteristic types of soil structures evolving under various environmental conditions.
The Soil Structure Library can be accessed here: https://structurelib.ufz.de
Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Vogel
Dr. Steffen Schlüter
Dr. Ulrich Weller