Application of Magnetic Resonance Techniques to evaluate soil compaction after grazing
De La Cruz,M.T
Grazing constitutes one of the most important processes of soil degradation due to compaction, and it affects both vegetation and soil in arid and semiarid ecosystems. Compaction modifies the soil structure and causes an increase in the proportion of small aggregates, which consequently leads to an increase in bulk soil density. Compaction also produces a decrease in soil organic carbon content. The soil becomes more densely packed, causing reductions in porosity and storage capacity. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was used to obtain a relative estimate of soil water content and porosity. The signal intensity from proton density images, which corresponds to the amount of water present in a sample, is lower in compacted soil. As calculated from the image signal intensity, the porosity percentage is also lower in grazing soils in comparison with natural recovery soils. H NMR relaxometry studies demonstrate shorter T2 and T1 relaxation times in grazing soil samples, suggesting lower pore sizes in these soils. Moreover, the grazing samples have a monomodal distribution of T1 with a narrow band, indicating greater homogeneity in the pore sizes. The bimodal distribution of T2 complements this result and indicates a greater proportion of smaller-size pores with greater homogeneity between them. There is a significant positive correlation between the porosity values determined by both methods, which demonstrates the validity of the MR technique. The relaxation times also show positive and significant correlations with analytical porosity. The application of MR techniques to soil compaction studies demonstrated the natural recovery of the physical properties of deteriorated soil after grazing damage in pastoral systems brought about by complete animal exclusion for ten years.