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Scientific Sessions


  1. Advances in soil-plant-atmosphere modelling and measurements across scales
  2. Soil modelling for the next generation of Earth System Models
  3. Linking Big Data to Smart Soil and Smart Environment
  4. Modeling of soil ecosystem functions and services in landscapes
  5. Soil organic carbon dynamics modeling
  6. Permafrost, peat and frozen soils
  7. New Perspectives on the Modeling of Colloidal Particle Fate in Soils



Session 1: Advances in soil-plant-atmosphere modelling and measurements across scales

Conveners: Dani Or (ETH Zürich), Anne Verhoef (University of Reading)

Soil interacts with the vegetation it supports and the overlying atmosphere via a range of processes that together determine the local water-, energy- and carbon balances. These interactions also determine key functions of the soil-vegetation-atmosphere system. For example, soil acts as a medium for plant growth (agri-horticultural and silvicultural productivity), and can sequester carbon, filter water and degrade pollutants, and may provide flood resilience. At larger scales, these interactions feature prominently in land-climate feedbacks that could affect precipitation characteristics, and the occurrence of extreme events such as droughts and heatwaves.

There is a considerable disparity between approaches used to study small-scale and short-term processes and functions using traditional soil models, and those that focus on long-term land surface and climatic processes at regional and continental scales. This disparity is reflected in the modeling detail and the type and resolution of data used for calibration and verification of models (e.g. laboratory and lysimeter data (small scale) versus FLUXNET and remote sensing with monthly to annual quantities for climate-centered studies).

We encourage contributions that fuse (novel) modeling approaches, monitoring techniques and data sets (including high-resolution remote sensing data from e.g. UAVs or satellites) to bridge these spatio-temporal scale gaps. Examples are studies that focus on improved descriptions of soil processes in hydrological and land surface models; that analyze experimental and observational soil data with relevance to these models; or that provide improved and novel models and datasets in the context of land-surface-atmosphere exchange and its relation to soil functions (including productivity, carbon sequestration, pollutant behaviour or provision of flood/drought/heatwave resilience), as well as the  possible feedbacks on extremes.  Studies that look at these topics from a land use or Climate Change point of view are also welcome.


Session 2: Soil modelling for the next generation of Earth System Models

Convenors: Harry Vereecken (Forschungszentrum Jülich), Peter Finke (Ghent University)

Earth system models should allow to calculate the effects of global change on soils and vice versa. The consequence is that soil sub-models should represent processes and their interactions that feedback to the atmosphere and water compartments, and thus should have a substantial process coverage. Additionally, lateral processes play a key role in soil formation processes as well as in controlling land surface atmosphere interactions, and need better representation. Eventually, this should lead to 3D-soil-landscape models as components of the next generation of earth system models.

We are still far from this stage, and need a better process coverage of soil and land surface processes at different spatial and temporal scales. That raises the question on how such potentially complicated 3D-models can be reduced to a computationally feasible form. To progress this work, we seek contributions from Earth System Sciences dealing with the modelling of land surfaces, sediment transport, soil erosion, soil formation, and the critical zone.  We welcome modelling work that is being done on scales ranging from field, hill slope to large catchments and time scales from sub-daily to geological time scales.


Session 3: Linking Big Data to Smart Soil and Smart Environment

Conveners:  Ana M. Tarquis (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), Ute Wollschläger (Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Halle (Saale)), Teamrat A. Ghezzehei (University of California Merced)

The advances in technology and communications (e.g., Proximal and Remote Sensors, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things) drive the scientific community to handle higher and higher amounts of data. The unprecedented volumes of data gathered today allow for a thorough investigation of the soil system and its interactions with the hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere. Thus, innovative data mining and big data tools are required, and machine-learning methods (such as neural networks, tree ensembles, random forests or Gaussian processes) can offer new means to extract valuable information in a rigorous manner. Several international research initiatives and scientific projects focus on the application of mathematical and statistical methods to extract insights from this emerging data-cube.

This session aims to bring together researchers working with big data generated from monitoring networks, extensive observational campaigns and extremely detailed modeling efforts across various fields related to soil and environmental science.

This session welcomes submissions on the identification and handling of specific problems arising from the need to analyze such large-scale data sets, together with and methodological approaches towards automatically inferring relevant patterns in time and space aided by computer science-inspired techniques. Among others, the following fields will be addressed:

* Dimensionality and complexity of big data sets
* Data mining and machine learning
* Visualization and visual analytics of big data
* Sensor networks design
* Complex networks and graph analysis
* Informatics and data science
* Linking data and models
* Standardization and harmonization of data


Session 4: Modeling of soil ecosystem functions and services in landscapes

Conveners: Martine van der Ploeg (Wageningen University), Kris Van Looy (OVAM) and David Robinson (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology)

The aim of this session is to bring together soil science disciplinary knowledge fields (geophysics, geomorphology, biogeochemistry, ecology, biodiversity) and other scientific communities (social sciences, economics) to synthesize existing and state-of-the-art knowledge and integration of existing data and predictive capacity (modelling) on soil degradation and sustainable land use.

Soil ecosystem functions, services, and land use sustainability hides a range of complex, often nonlinear, biophysical and socio-economic interactions. Many biophysical processes are interwoven with human society and the socioeconomic system which often drives our attitudes toward, and the management and exploitation of, our environment. For strategic goals like the land degradation neutrality and the SDGs the different threats of land and soil degradation, should be considered in interdisciplinary approaches relating current soil quality conditions and processes to human activities and climatic variations. Integration of soil modelling - including in the bioeconomy domain - is crucial in this respect. Firstly, to identify vulnerability and degradation risk over spatial and temporal scales, and secondly, to support sustainable conservation and management efforts. In order to do so soil and land system models are required that capture the complexity of transformation and exchange processes that make up the soil ecosystem functions, governing the wide panoply of soil ecosystem services.


Session 5: Soil organic carbon dynamics modeling

Conveners: Michael Young (UT-Austin), Alejandro Flores (Boise State University), Katherine Todd-Brown (Pacific Northwest National Labs)

At the global scale, the largest terrestrial carbon pool is found in the soil, which stores approximately three times the quantity of atmospheric carbon. Even small variations in soil carbon stocks can lead to large changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. Analytical and numerical models, especially complex Earth system models, often incorporate dynamic processes and properties of soil carbon, but they struggle to reproduce modern soil carbon distributions and generally disagree on the direction of change of soil carbon stocks over the 21st century. Recent attempts to address this have included both increasing process complexity and depth resolved models. An open question remains how to scale these high process resolutions that occur at very fine scale to broad scale ecosystem fluxes. Users of model output (from both conceptual models and numerical models) also vary from biogeochemists to atmospheric scientists, making the outcomes of these models vital for climate and ecosystem projections. In this special session, we seek contributions that highlight the state-of-the-art in soil carbon modeling, and suggest new approaches and paradigms for future soil models that can tackle the scaling and process representations.


Session 6: Permafrost, peat and frozen soils

Conveners: Umakant Mishra (Argonne National Laboratory), Eugenie Euskirchen (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Bertrand Guenet (Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et l'Environnement)

Permafrost, peat and frozen soils store largest amount of soil carbon in the terrestrial ecosystems, and remain the most sensitive component of the global carbon cycle under changing climate and land use. Permafrost and peat soil degradation is causing rapid environmental changes including enhancing the transport and flow of carbon from soil to aquatic systems. However, numerous challenges remain in modeling the permafrost and peat soil carbon feedbacks as well as the overall changes in ecosystem structure and function under degradation of these soils. In this session, we invite contributions that incorporate field observations, remote sensing, and laboratory experiments into geospatial and process based models to enhance our understanding and reduce uncertainty in ecosystem change with permafrost and peat soils degradation in response to the changing climate and land use. We encourage submissions that show: 1) observed environmental controllers of ecosystem carbon storage and flow, 2) scaling properties of important biogeochemical properties and processes, and 3) data-model integration to address critical uncertainties that exists in the carbon dynamics of permafrost and peat soils.


Session 7: New Perspectives on the Modeling of Colloidal Particle Fate in Soils

Conveners: Eric Michel (Institute for Agricultural Research), Scott Bradford (United States Department of Agriculture)

The fate of colloid in soils is a matter of concern for two reasons. Their transport from the soil surface to the aquifers can impair the quality of groundwater if (i) the colloids are themselves pollutants, as for example bacteria, viruses or nanoparticles, and if (ii) harmless colloidal-sized soil constituents carry adsorbed contaminants that would otherwise have a lower mobility in the soil, a process that is known as "colloid-facilitated transport of contaminants". In addition, colloids are actors of soil formation. Their mobilization from an upper soil layer, and their transport to — and their retention in — a lower layer is a widespread soil formation process known as clay translocation or lessivage.

As a consequence, accurate models of colloid fate in soils are needed to assess the risk of aquifer contamination or to forecast soil evolution in a context of global changes. This session aims at gathering new perspectives and advances on the development of such models. More specifically, the contributions could encompass – but not be limited to:

* the modeling of basic processes controlling colloid mobility in soils, mobilization of colloidal-sized soil constituents, and the retention of colloids in undisturbed soils,
* models of colloid-facilitated transport of pollutants,
* the modeling of lessivage in soil formation models,
* comparison studies using innovative visualization techniques including such as X-ray computed tomography, positron-emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging or relaxometry.

Colloid transport is particularly relevant in undisturbed soil, and when preferential macropore flow occurs. However works where the model outputs are compared with experimental data gathered in a variety of experimental situations, including field, lysimeter, column or pore-scale experiments, with undisturbed, repacked or model soils, in unsaturated or saturated conditions are welcomed.

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