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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - Pedology

Assessing the Suitability of Rotary Coring for Sampling in Rocky Soils


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 76 No. 5, p. 1707-1718
    Received: Nov 10, 2011
    Published: September 12, 2012

    * Corresponding author(s): crlevi01@syr.edu
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  1. Carrie R. Levine *a,
  2. Ruth D. Yanaia,
  3. Matthew A. Vadeboncoeurb,
  4. Steven P. Hamburgc,
  5. April M. Melvind,
  6. Christine L. Goodalee,
  7. Benjamin M. Rauf and
  8. Dale W. Johnsong
  1. a Department of Forest and Natural Resource Management, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 1 Forestry Dr., Syracuse, NY 13210
    b Earth Systems Research Center, University of New Hampshire, 8 College Road, Durham, NH 03824
    c Environmental Defense Fund, 18 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02108
    d Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 Current address: Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611
    e Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
    f USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Building 3702 Curtin Rd., University Park, PA 16802
    g Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Nevada, Reno, 1000 Valley Rd., Reno, NV 89512


Forest soils are difficult to sample quantitatively because of obstruction by rocks and coarse roots. Collecting quantitative soil cores with a motorized diamond-tipped cylindrical bit can provide much faster access to deep soil samples than digging quantitative soil pits. However, the grinding of rock and soil during coring could elevate exchangeable cation concentrations relative to samples collected manually. We compared soils collected by rotary coring to those collected from quantitative pits at four sites in the United States with differing soil types: Alfisols in California (CA), Mollisols in Nevada (NV), Inceptisols in New York (NY), and Spodosols in New Hampshire (NH). Estimates of soil mass were 34% higher from cores than pits at the NY site (p < 0.0001). Estimates of rock mass were lower in cores than pits by 60% at the NH site (p < 0.0001), by 36% at the NY site (p < 0.0001), and by 55% at the CA site (p = 0.002). Exchangeable K was significantly elevated in cores relative to pits at all four sites by 32 to 1700%, and Ca, Mg, and Na showed elevated concentrations at one or more sites. We tested whether the inner portion of the core was comparable to samples from pits, but found that the rotary action of the corer mixed soils throughout the core bit at the two sites we tested. Coring does have the advantage that more samples can be collected for the same effort, compared to pits. Some degree of inaccuracy might be acceptable in a tradeoff for greater precision in the site-level mean, for example in studies aimed at detecting change in soil nutrients over time.

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Copyright © 2012. Copyright © by the Soil Science Society of America, Inc.