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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Field-scale estimation of soil properties from spectral induced polarization tomography


Estimates of soil properties such as Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), water content, grain size characteristics, and permeability are important in geotechnical engineering, water resources, and agriculture. We develop a non-intrusive approach to estimate these properties in the field using spectral induced polarization (SIP) tomography. This geophysical method provides information about the frequency dependence of the complex electrical conductivity of porous media. Using 18 soil samples collected from a Bordeaux vineyard, we first conducted a laboratory study using SIP over the frequency range 10 mHz-45 kHz. The laboratory data were used to confirm the accuracy of a recently developed dynamic Stern layer petrophysical model. The results are consistent with published values from previous works using soils. A comparison was made by comparing the field complex conductivity spectra and the experimental data at two locations where core samples were obtained. The model was then used in concert with field data to image the spatial distribution of CEC, water content, permeability, and mean grain size along a vineyard transect. For clay and sandy textures found in the field, measured and estimated CEC agree rather well (from 6 to 40% discrepancy). Our approach provides an efficient way to estimate important soil properties in a non-invasive manner, in high resolution, and over field-relevant scales of the critical zone of the Earth.

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