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ISMC News 18th Mar. 2021

Opening of the Conference 18th May 2021 - 1pm UTC; Registration open; Abstract submission extended; Featured Paper; Featured Soil Modeler


Mark you Calendar: Opening of the conference 18th May 2021 - 1pm UTC (Live Session)

Virtually doable for all time zones!

Some local times:
18th May 2021 9pm CST Beijing
18th May 2021 3pm CEST Vienna, Austria
18th May 2021 9am EDT New York
18th May 2021 6am CEST San Francisco

Notable Events:
Opening of the Conference by the ISMC Chairs (5 min)
Award Ceremony (10 min)

 - Rien van Genuchten Award hand-over
 - ISMC Early Career Awards hand-over
 - ISMC Publication Award hand-over

Keynotes by Recipients
-    Prof. Dr. Tiina Roose (Rien van Genuchten Award)
-    Dr. Ryan Stewart (ISMC Early Career Award)
-    Dr. Morteza Sadeghi (ISMC Early Career Award)


Registration has opened for the conference

The deadline for early registration is Sunday, 18 April 2021.
The registration fee is €25 for early registration and €50 for late registration.

Register here.


Abstract submission extended to: 31st March 2021


3rd ISMC Conference - Advances in Modeling Soil Systems to May 18-22, 2021

The conference programme addresses recent research in the soil-vegetation-atmosphere continuum centered around soils over all spatial scales, time scales, and elements - from processes to prediction.
Programme and abstract submission:


Featured Paper: Soil Rather Than Xylem Vulnerability Controls Stomatal Response to Drought

Andrea Carminati and Mathieu Javaux

There is an increasing need for mechanistic and predictive models of transpiration and stomatal response to drought and soil water availability. It has been hypothesized that stomatal regulation is predictable based on plant and soil hydraulics. The current trend towards a greater consideration of plant hydraulics in earth system science emphasizes xylem vulnerability, neglecting the explicit role of soil and root hydraulics. The importance of root and soil hydraulic conductivity on plant water status is well accepted, but difficult to measure. There is increasing evidence that plants adapt the conductivity of their roots as well as that of the soil in their vicinity, the rhizosphere, to match the soil conditions and atmospheric water demand, contributing to the regulation of plant water status and transpiration. The current trend towards linking stomata regulation to plant hydraulics emphasizes the role of xylem vulnerability. Using a soil–plant hydraulic model, we show that xylem vulnerability does not trigger stomatal closure in medium-wet to dry soils and we propose that soil hydraulic conductivity loss is the primary driver of stomatal closure. This finding has two key implications: transpiration response to drought cannot be derived from plant traits only and is related to soil–root hydraulics in a predictable way; roots and their interface with the soil, the rhizosphere, are key hydraulic regions that plants can alter to efficiently adapt to water limitations. We conclude that connecting below- and aboveground hydraulics is necessary to fully comprehend plant responses to drought.

Key Figure: Soil Drying Constraints on Stomatal Conductance and Transpiration.

How to cite: Carminati, Andrea, and Mathieu Javaux. "Soil rather than xylem vulnerability controls stomatal response to drought." Trends in plant science, 25(9):868-880, 2020.


Featured Soil Modeler

Soil-Water-Plant-Energy Interactions: The importance of Soil Processes

Yijian Zeng is an assistant professor at the Department of Water Resources, ITC Faculty of Geo-Information and Earth Observation, University of Twente. He currently serves as an Executive Board Member of ISMC, and is currently the co-lead of ISMC/GEWEX-SoilWat Initiative, a joint project between the GEWEX and ISMC, which aims to bring together two research communities to improve the representation of soil and subsurface processes in climate models, identifying the most pressing challenges and topics related to this effort. He serves as a panel member for the GLASS (Global Land/Atmosphere System Study Panel) of GEWEX (The Global Energy and Water Exchanges) Project. GEWEX is part of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), and is dedicated to understanding Earth’s water cycle and energy fluxes at, and below the surface and in the atmosphere. He is currently also the group leader for the “Soil Moisture Content” working group (WG) of the EU COST-ACTION project HARMONIOUS “Harmonisation of UAS techniques for agricultural and natural ecosystems monitoring”.

- Please tell us briefly about yourself and your research interest.

During my graduate studies at China University of Geosciences (Beijing), I was wandering amidst various topics until bumping into a project on vapor condensation within sand dunes. Curiosity drove me to try understanding the apparent ‘conflicting’ phenomena of vapor transport in sand, i.e., vapor moving out of sand dune during night time while moistening the sand dune during daytime1. Then, the vapor transport problem became the focus of my PhD studies, which resulted in a multi-phase heat and mass transport model (STEMMUS – Simultaneous Transfer of Energy, Mass and Momentum in Unsaturated Soil)2-3. Currently, my research mainly focuses on understanding soil-water-plant-energy interactions, while considering the importance of detailed soil processes4.

-  How did you first become interested in soil modelling and learn about ISMC?

Studying the vapor transfer in soil requires the coupling of soil water and heat transport, for which I followed the pioneering work by Philip and DeVries (1957)5 and started to use the VBA and finite difference method to solve the coupled problem. The soil modelling work for my MSc thesis laid the foundation for the STEMMUS model. I learned about ISMC in 2016, from Vereecken et al.’s ISMC visionary paper6, which immediately attracted my interests. Since then, I’ve been actively following and participating ISMC’s activities.

-Can you share with us your current research focus? And, please tell us briefly how your research could contribute to ISMC Science Panel’s activities

Land surface schemes in Earth System Models (ESMs) describe soil water flow with Richards Equation and heat conduction with Fourier’s Law, separately. Although these two fundamental processes can represent reasonably well soil water and heat dynamics over most climate zones/regions of the globe, they underperform over Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) where soil mass and heat transfers are strongly coupled. My current research focus is trying to investigate how much extent such kinds of neglects of relevant soil processes will influence the soil-water-plant-energy interactions, in the context of ESMs. This research thrust motivates me to contribute and participate in various ISMC Science Panel’s activities, for example, the CROSS-Connect science panel, WGs of “Soil Thermal Properties” and “Pedotransfer Functions and Land Surface Parameterization”, as well as ISMC/GEWEX-SoilWat Initiative.

- Please tell us how can ISMC help you advance in your career?

ISMC is a platform bringing together international communities’ contributions to improve the role of soil modelling as a knowledge dissemination instrument in addressing key global issues and stimulate the development of translational research activities. The visionary mission statement of ISMC is pointing to an exciting ‘Soil Era’ for understanding and modelling soil, which will help inform our researches to evolve with the current and future knowledge gaps and challenges in soil modelling. Particularly, ISMC conferences/Webinars/WGs provide precious opportunities to learn the state-of-the-art in this field, and will inspire our researches in addressing those critical knowledge gaps/challenges, via interacting, collaborating and brainstorming with like-minded colleagues and friends.

- What resources or skills would you recommend that early career members of ISMC should acquire? And how can ISMC help and support early career members in this regard?

Soil modelling could be sometimes (or most of time) painstaking (I recalled the period of ‘locking up’ myself for developing STEMMUS). However, no pain, no gains. When one sees the code runs as expected and provides insights into mechanism understanding on soil processes, the joyfulness is enormous. I would encourage early career members to endure themselves in developing new theories and models to advance our understanding of and address current knowledge gaps and challenges in soil modelling. To this perspective, ISMC can help earlier career members to have access to new theories, advanced models/tools/methodologies, via relevant above-mentioned activities, dedicated workshops, and potentially training schools.


  1. Zeng, Y. et al. Diurnal pattern of the drying front in desert and its application for determining the effective infiltration. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 13, 703-714, doi:10.5194/hess-13-703-2009 (2009).
  2. Zeng, Y. & Su, Z. STEMMUS : Simultaneous Transfer of Engery, Mass and Momentum in Unsaturated Soil. ITC-WRS Report, Enschede, University of Twente Faculty of Geo-Information and Earth Observation (ITC), ISBN: 978-990-6164-6351-6167: 6161-6164 (2013).
  3. Zeng, Y., Su, Z., Wan, L. & Wen, J. Numerical analysis of air-water-heat flow in unsaturated soil: Is it necessary to consider airflow in land surface models? Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres 116, doi:10.1029/2011JD015835 (2011).
  4. Wang, Y. et al. Integrated Modeling of Photosynthesis and Transfer of Energy, Mass and Momentum in the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum System. Geosci. Model Dev. Discuss. 2020, 1-37, doi:10.5194/gmd-2020-85 (2020).
  5. Philip, J. R. & De Vries. Moisture movement in porous materials under temperature gradient. Trans. Am. Geophys. Union 38, 222–232 (1957).
  6. Vereecken, H. et al. Modeling Soil Processes: Review, Key Challenges, and New Perspectives. Vadose Zone Journal 15, vzj2015.2009.0131, doi: (2016).
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