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ISMC Conference 2024

The 4th ISMC conference will be held in Tianjin University, China 6th to 11th of May 2024.

The conference is organizing by

Local organization committee:
Congqiang Liu (Dean of School of Earth System Science, Tianjin University; member of China Academy of Science)
Xi Chen (Head of Ecohydrology & Water Resources, Tianjin University),
Tiejun Wang, and Yonggen Zhang (Tianjin University)

ISMC organization committee:

Yijian Zeng (University of Twente)
Lutz Weihermueller (Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH)
Martine van der Ploeg (Wageningen University)

Dring the conference the Rien van Genuchten Award, ISMC Early Career Award and ISMC Publication Award will be awarded. Application can be found here



The need for a soil digital twin and how it can look like (Harry Vereecken)

The soil in Land Surface Models: Challenges, Opportunities, and Future Directions (Yongjiu Dai)

Priority of soil research and soil management in China in the future decade (Gan-Lin Zhang)
         Further keynotes will be announced

Conference program


Session 1
Application of Machine Learning and Non-Linear Methods for Spatial Data Analysis


Convenor: Ruhollah Taghizadeh-Mehrjardi (University of Tübingen, Germany,;  Brandon Heung (Dalhousie University, Canada ,,); Ana Tarquis (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain,

To study complex dynamical systems, such as soil, the simple linear approaches are not always successful. Advances in non-linear (NL) and Machine learning (ML) guided analysis techniques could lead to a powerful approach for comprehending and analyzing complex spatial data. ML techniques (e.g., artificial neural networks, decision tree, support vector machine, ensemble models, deep learning) can identify patterns, relationships, and insights in large and intricate spatial datasets. NL and scaling approach has been extensively applied to statistically characterize the spatial and temporal variability of hypercube data.

Commonly recognized applications of ML  and NL in spatial data analysis include remote sensing, land-use and land-cover classification, urban planning, environmental monitoring, and transportation planning. Moreover, ML and NL have numerous applications in soil modeling, such as soil classification, fertility prediction, crop yield prediction, soil erosion prediction, and soil carbon sequestration prediction.These applications are crucial in advancing soil modeling and improving our understanding of soil processes, which have significant implications for agriculture, land use planning, and environmental management. Specifically, we are looking for novel solutions and approaches related to state-of-the-art ML and NL techniques focusing on innovative quantitative prediction methods, new applications for state-of-the-art ML and NL, including deep learning methods, scaling laws, recurrence analysis, including those techniques for identifying causal relationships in soil processes.



Session 2

How to include root hydraulic architecture in soil models to simulate root water uptake


Convenors: Gaochai Cai (Sun Yat-Sen University, China,, Yilin Fang (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA,, Daniel Leitner (Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany,, Andrea Schnepf (Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany,

Description: Root water uptake strongly impacts the terrestrial water cycle since soil water balance is directly linked to evaporation through the vegetation canopy. The overall soil-root hydraulic problem is governed by hydraulic properties of the soil, the plant’s root system, and on the distribution of water in the root zone. The soil root interface is especially important for root water uptake. Current research questions in modelling root water uptake are how to include the impact of soil-root contact on root water uptake, and how to represent small scale variations in properties near the root which are not represented by bulk soil properties. In this session we focus on new modelling approaches to accurately describe root water uptake in  larger scale soil models. For the root system scale we generally describe the root hydraulic model as a Darcy-type axial flow model where root water uptake is defined as a  source term. Often radial water uptake along the root is assumed to be proportional to the pressure head difference between xylem and root surface. The root surface pressure head is dependent on the soil hydraulic model and the roots perirhizal zone geometry. Especially, under dry conditions gradients in the perirhizal zone generate a strong additional nonlinear resistance to the radial flow. In this session we seek new methods and models to include such root hydraulic processes into larger scale soil water flow and land surface models. Feasible methods include exact methods, averaging and upscaling methods, or model simplifications regarding process description or root architecture geometry. Contributions on mathematical model development using either top-down or bottom-up approaches, as well as model analysis and discussions on model applicability in different climatic scenarios are of highest interest.


Session 3

Toward characterising and modelling the temporal variability of effective soil properties


Convenor: Attila Nemes (Nibio, Norway,, Anne Verhoef (The University of Reading, United Kingdom,, Kathe Todd-Brown (University of Florida, USA,, Martine van der Ploeg (Wageningen University & Research,

Description: The soil matrix, and its intrinsic pore system, is increasingly viewed as temporally variable. The pore system of structured soils responds to abrupt changes (e.g. human-induced pressures such as trampling by cattle or soil tillage),  but it also has a gradual response to environmental change. Both from the experimental and modelling point of view, studying governing mechanisms, quantification of pore-scale processes, and rates of change in response to environmental forcing requires interdisciplinarity. However, representation of soil as a temporally variable medium is poorly facilitated in models, if at all. Soil parameters are pre-defined and kept constant in time, and there is no interaction between the environmental drivers, soil processes and soil parameters. New model structure architecture should be conceptualized to help implement the “dynamic soil” paradigm. This session welcomes a broad range of contributions on e.g., interactions between physical and (micro)biological processes at the pore-scale, quantifying soil change-rates including of soil structure and parameters (e.g. pore-size distribution, hydraulic conductivity), and the representation of dynamic soil properties in simulation models. Conceptual proposals on how to implement soil as a temporally variable medium in models are welcome. The conveners expect to have a presentation session followed by a broader discussion, potentially leading to a note on ways forward.

Session 4

On representing memory effects, hysteresis and feedbacks in the Critical Zone


Convenors: Mehdi Rahmati (Department of Soil Science and Engineering, University of Maragheh, Maragheh, Iran, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany,, Harry Vereecken (Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany,, and Dani Or (Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, Division of Hydrologic Sciences (DHS) - Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV, USA,

Description: The biosphere compartment that extends from the top of the canopy down to the groundwater is referred to as the critical zone due to its centrality to life-sustaining mass and energy exchange processes. Importantly, the critical zone - which includes soils - records and preserves information about past environmental conditions that influence future land surface processes over multiple time scales. The ability of this living archive to transmit information through time is referred to as the memory of the soil or critical zone. Prominent examples include the storage of rainwater in the soil, which affects future fluxes to the atmosphere, or the increasing accumulation of organic carbon in the soil, which affects future biogeochemical processes in the critical zone. Soil formation and soil properties themselves also represent a living record of past environmental conditions. We hypothesize that soil memory is a critical component for understanding the observed feedback mechanisms, hysteretic effects, and delayed interactions in the soil and/or critical zone as integral parts of ecosystem functioning (especially in a changing climate with transient influences). This aspect of delayed response and memory is not yet adequately represented in our Earth system models. This session will present new theoretical and observational approaches that address this emerging problem. We look forward to contributions from the fields of hydrology, climate, soil science, bio-geoscience, and critical zone exploration.   


Session 5

Constraining soil hydrologic processes using in-situ and remote sensing observations


Convenors: Jianzhi Dong (Tianjin University, China,, Tianjie Zhao (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China,, Long Zhao (Southwest University, China,, Chunyu Dong (Sun Yat-sen University, China,

Description: Soil hydrologic processes play a crucial role in the fields of hydrology and earth system sciences. However, accurately modeling these processes and their associated variables remains a challenge due to their complex nature. This section aims to explore innovative techniques, including novel observation and modeling methods, data assimilation, and optimization approaches to improve our understandings and modeling skills of soil hydrologic processes.

  •  Contributions that address the following issues are particularly welcome:
  •  Novel in-situ measurement techniques for soil hydrologic processes
  •  Remote sensing retrieval algorithms for soil moisture, evapotranspiration, drainage etc.
  •  Applications of data assimilation methods
  •  Parameter optimization for vadose zone models.

By sharing cutting-edge techniques and research, we hope to advance our knowledge of soil hydrologic processes and improve our ability to model and constrain them effectively.


Session 6

Saturation kinetics in soils: stochiometric limits, mineral-organic interactions, and microbial explicit models


Convenors:  Zhifeng Yan (Tianjin University, China,; Katherine Todd-Brown (University of Florida, USA,; Gangsheng Wang (Wuhan University, China,; Wenping Yuan(Sun Yat-Sen University, China,; Gang Wang (China Agricultural University, China,

Description: The fundamental underlying processes of soil biogeochemistry are known to be non-linear. However, incorporating this understanding into process-rich models remains challenging. Substrate stoichiometry, mineral-organic association, hydraulics and hydrodynamics, and microbial physiology (among other processes) are increasingly being incorporated into new biogeochemical models to embody new data streams and increase model performance. In this session, we invite contributions on model development, parameterization, model-data integration, benchmarking, mathematical analysis, and numerical behaviors with an explicit representation of saturation kinetics. This includes stoichiometric co-limitations, mineral-organic interactions, and microbial metabolism. We anticipate that this session will contribute to advancing the field of soil biogeochemical modeling and enhancing our comprehension of the complex dynamics in soil ecosystems.


Session 7

Modelling soil processes in land surface modelling


Convenors: Zhongwang Wei (Sun Yat-sen University, China,, Nan Wei (Sun Yat-sen University, China,, Yongjiu Dai (Sun Yat-sen University, China,; Tobias KD Weber (University Kassel, Germany,; Jingyi Huang (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA,

Description: Accurately representing soil processes is critical for predicting and understanding the impact of various environmental factors on terrestrial ecosystems. The high intricacy and variability of soil processes, including soil hydraulic and thermal properties, soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics, and the interactions among the soil-vegetation-atmosphere continuum, introduce significant uncertainties for land surface models. It has also been a challenge to represent soil processes in land surface processes under climate change and natural and anthropogenic disturbance (e.g., drought, floods, wildfires, deforestation/reforestation, tillage, soil erosion). Recently, new developments of theories and technologies and their associated novel applications have made encouraging progress in modeling soil processes in land surface modeling. This session explores the latest advances in modeling soil processes in land surface modeling, including but not limited to algorithm and data development, mechanism analyses, parameter calibration, model evaluation, and applications. The session also discusses the challenges and limitations in soil process modeling, such as the heterogeneity of soil properties, the uncertainties in parameterization, and data availability in land surface modeling, particularly under climate change and natural and anthropogenic disturbance.


Session 8

General Session of any model related research


Convenors: Yonggen Zhang (Tianjin University School of Earth System Science;, Yijian Zeng (University of Twente,, Lutz Weihermueller (Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany,, Martine van der Ploeg (Wageningen University & Research,, Hailong He (Northwest A&F University, China,

Description: In this session any related topic regarding soil modelling which does not fit into the specific sessions proposed can be presented.



World Café

Transformative Soil Modeling through Inclusive Collaboration and Disseminated Education


Convenor: Ali Mehmandoostkotlar (Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, ILVO, Belgium,; Bárbara Costa da Silva (Amazon Environmental Research Institute – IPAM,; Elisa Bruni (LG-ENS (Ecole normale supérieure), Laboratoire de géologie, Paris, France, Mojtaba Zeraatpisheh (University of Vermont, Gund Institute for Environment, Rubenstein school of environment,, Mahyar Naseri (Thünen-Institut, Institut für Agrartechnologie, )

As Teaching and Dissemination is an important part of science today and as there has been an ISMC working group formed to tackle this topic, we propose world café dedicated to informing conference participants about its aims and to attract more people joining in the working group. This session is an open forum where people can freely get involved and ask questions. This would create an opportunity for more engagement and participation




There will be an excursion offered (details will follow soon)


Abstract Submission and Registration


Abtract submission and registration will be opened soon


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