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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 68 No. 5, p. 1508-1514
    Received: July 10, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): gimmi@geo.unibe.ch
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Mapping Material Distribution in a Heterogeneous Sand Tank by Image Analysis

  1. Thomas Gimmi *a and
  2. Nadia Ursinob
  1. a Rock-Water Interaction Group, Institute of Geological Sciences, Univ. of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 1-3, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland, and Paul Scherrer Institut, CH-5232 Villigen, Switzerland
    b Univ. of Padova, Dep. IMAGE, Padova, Italy


Water flow and solute transport through soils are strongly influenced by the spatial arrangement of soil materials with different hydraulic and chemical properties. Knowing the specific or statistical arrangement of these materials is considered as a key toward improved predictions of solute transport. Our aim was to obtain two-dimensional material maps from photographs of exposed profiles. We developed a segmentation and classification procedure and applied it to the images of a very heterogeneous sand tank, which was used for a series of flow and transport experiments. The segmentation was based on thresholds of soil color, estimated from local median gray values, and of soil texture, estimated from local coefficients of variation of gray values. Important steps were the correction of inhomogeneous illumination and reflection, and the incorporation of prior knowledge in filters used to extract the image features and to smooth the results morphologically. We could check and confirm the success of our mapping by comparing the estimated with the designed sand distribution in the tank. The resulting material map was used later as input to model flow and transport through the sand tank. Similar segmentation procedures may be applied to any high-density raster data, including photographs or spectral scans of field profiles.

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