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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 74 No. 3, p. 812-819
    Received: May 28, 2009

    * Corresponding author(s): lwielo@bnl.gov


Soil Analysis Based on Samples Withdrawn from Different Volumes: Correlation versus Calibration

  1. Lucian Wielopolski *a,
  2. Kurt Johnsenb and
  3. Yuen Zhangc
  1. a Brookhaven National Lab., Environmental Sciences Dep., Bldg. 490D, Upton NY 11973
    b U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station, Southern Institute of Forest Ecosystem Biology, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
    c Dep. of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Stony Brook Univ., Stony Brook, NY 11794


Soil, particularly in forests, is replete with spatial variation with respect to soil C. The present standard chemical method for soil analysis by dry combustion (DC) is destructive, and comprehensive sampling is labor intensive and time consuming. These, among other factors, are contributing to the development of new methods for soil analysis. These include a near- and mid-infrared (NIR and MIR) spectroscopy, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), and inelastic neutron scattering (INS). These technologies overcome many of the state-of-the-art DC method's shortcomings and offer advances that it cannot. While NIR and MIR measure C bonds, the other two new methods, like DC, are more specific in measuring C and other elements based on chemical, atomic, and nuclear reactions. In addition to their fundamentally different physical principles, these approaches vastly differ in the volumes they typically sample: LIBS, 10−9 m3; DC, 10−7 m3; NIR and MIR, 10−6 m3; and INS, about 0.3 m3 Thus, extra care is needed when comparing the findings from any two of these methods. Also, the high heterogeneity of the soil matrix, the nonuniformity of C distribution, and the presence of coarse fragments, particularly in forested ecosystems, further compound the difficulties in making direct comparisons. We investigated the implications of these differences when correlating any two of these methods and reviewed the processes of comparing a volumetric measurement against a point measurement. We also conducted a detailed comparison of the INS method with the standard DC test. We found that the total (soil organic matter and roots) measured by the INS correlated better than its components with the DC analyses( r 2 = 0.97, P = 10−7). The samples for DC analysis were taken from excavations of 40- by 40- by 40-cm plots, in 5- and 10-cm layers.

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