Scientists at the US National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory have developed a portable laser scanner than can accurately measure soil roughness, a key determinant of erosion. The laser scans the microscopic ridges in the soil and transmits the data to a computer that produces a microtopographic map of the area. Scientists can determine if erosion has taken place by analysing and comparing maps.
The scanner is being used to calculate to what extent surface roughness can trap and store detached soil particles, to measure water storage on soil surfaces and to gauge earthworm activity.
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