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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  14 Jul 2020

14 Jul 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESurf.

A photogrammetry-based approach for soil bulk density measurements with an emphasis on applications to cosmogenic nuclide analysis

Joel Mohren1, Steven A. Binnie1, Gregor M. Rink1,a, Katharina Knödgen1, Carlos Miranda3, Nora Tilly2, and Tibor J. Dunai1 Joel Mohren et al.
  • 1Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, University of Cologne, Zülpicher Str. 49b, 50674 Cologne, Germany
  • 2Institute of Geography, University of Cologne, Otto-Fischer-Str. 4, 50674 Cologne, Germany
  • 3Departemento de Ciencias Geólogicas, Universidad Católica del Norte, Avenida Angamos 0610, Antofagasta, Chile
  • apresent address: Department of Geosciences, University of Tübingen, Hölderlinstr. 12, 72074 Tübingen, Germany

Abstract. The quantification of soil bulk density (ρB) is a cumbersome and time-consuming task when traditional soil density sampling techniques are applied. However, it can be important for terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide (TCN) production rate scaling when deriving ages or surface process rates from buried samples, in particular when short-lived TCN such as in situ 14C are applied. Here we show that soil density determinations can be made using structure-from-motion multi-view stereo (SfM-MVS) photogrammetry-based volume reconstructions of sampling pits. Accuracy and precision tests as found in the literature and as conducted in this study clearly indicate that photographs taken from both a consumer-grade digital single lens mirrorless (DSLM) and a smartphone camera are of sufficient quality to produce accurate and precise modelling results, i.e. to regularly reproduce the true volume and/or density by > 95 %. This finding holds also if a freeware-based computing workflow is applied. The technique has been used to measure ρB along three small-scale (< 1 km) N-S transects located in the semi-arid to arid Altos de Talinay, northern central Chile (~ 30.5° S, ~ 71.7° W), during a TCN sampling campaign. Here, long-term differences in microclimatic conditions between south-facing (SFS) and north-facing (NFS) slopes explain a sharp contrast in vegetation cover, slope gradient and general soil condition patterns. These contrasts are also reflected by the soil density data, generally coinciding with lower densities on SFS. The largest differences between NFS and SFS are evident in the lower portion of the respective slopes, close to the thalwegs. In general, field-state soil bulk densities were found to vary by about 0.6 g cm−3 over a few tens of metres along the same slope. As such, the dataset that was mainly generated to derive more accurate TCN-based process rates and ages can be used to characterise the present-day condition of soils in the study area, which in turn can give insight into the long-term soil formation and prevailing environmental conditions.

Joel Mohren et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Joel Mohren et al.

Joel Mohren et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
In this study, we comprehensively test a method to derive soil densities under fieldwork conditions. The method is mainly based on images taken from consumer-grade cameras. The obtained soil/sediment densities reflect true values by generally > 95 %, even if a smartphone is used for imaging. All computing steps can be conducted using freeware programs. Soil density is an important variable in the analysis of terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides, e.g. to infer long-term soil production rates.
In this study, we comprehensively test a method to derive soil densities under fieldwork...