Multifractal analysis of discretized X-ray CT images for the characterization of soil macropore structures

F. San José Martínez, M. A. Martín, F. J. Caniego, M. Tuller, A. Guber, Y. Pachepsky, C. García-Gutiérrez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


A correct statistical model of soil pore structure can be critical for understanding flow and transport processes in soils, and creating synthetic soil pore spaces for hypothetical and model testing, and evaluating similarity of pore spaces of different soils. Advanced visualization techniques such as X-ray computed tomography (CT) offer new opportunities of exploring heterogeneity of soil properties at horizon or aggregate scales. Simple fractal models such as fractional Brownian motion that have been proposed to capture the complex behavior of soil spatial variation at field scale rarely simulate irregularity patterns displayed by spatial series of soil properties. The objective of this work was to use CT data to test the hypothesis that soil pore structure at the horizon scale may be represented by multifractal models. X-ray CT scans of twelve, water-saturated, 20-cm long soil columns with diameters of 7.5 cm were analyzed. A reconstruction algorithm was applied to convert the X-ray CT data into a stack of 1480 grayscale digital images with a voxel resolution of 110 microns and a cross-sectional size of 690 × 690 pixels. The images were binarized and the spatial series of the percentage of void space vs. depth was analyzed to evaluate the applicability of the multifractal model. The series of depth-dependent macroporosity values exhibited a well-defined multifractal structure that was revealed by singularity and Rényi spectra. The long-range dependencies in these series were parameterized by the Hurst exponent. Values of the Hurst exponent close to one were observed indicating the strong persistence in variations of porosity with depth. The multifractal modeling of soil macropore structure can be an efficient method for parameterizing and simulating the vertical spatial heterogeneity of soil pore space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-42
Number of pages11
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 15 2010


  • Hurst exponent
  • Image analysis
  • Long-range dependence
  • Multifractal analysis
  • Soil pore space
  • Soil spatial variability
  • X-ray computed tomography of soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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