You are here: Home / News / Meetings - Reports - Publications / ISMC News 23 June 2021

ISMC News 23 June 2021

Webinar+ Award Section online + ESP Meeting + Featured Soil Modeller


Webinar Series – ISCN – International Soil Carbon Network

Next webinar: Which emerging approaches can enable widespread soil C measurement and monitoring? July 13th, 3:00 pm Eastern. 

A webinar series organized by the International Soil Carbon Network in partnership with the American Geophysical Union and the USDA Climate Hubs to advance critical questions in soilcarbon sequestration technology.

ISCN – International Soil Carbon Network (


Awards section is online

We have just listed the award recipients for the

  • Rien van Genuchten Awards

  • ISMC Early Career Awards

  • ISMC Publication Awards

  • Early Career ISMC Presentation Awards

here: Awards — ISMC (


Eighth Plenary Meeting of the European Soil Partnership

The 8th European Soil Partnership Plenary Meeting takes 24 June 2021 10:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 17:00 CEST.

Topics under discussion:

  • GSP ongoing products, requests by the GSP Secretariat, ITPS, sub-regional soil partnerships of the ESP

  • Soil Governance: FAO: Committee of Agriculture, FAO Council, (open-ended) Working Groups, FAO Europe Region Group (ERG), EU-Council (AGRIFISH): Coordinating Working Party

  • GSP: Chair and Co-chair, Secretariat, Pillars and working groups, action areas, ITPS, other working groups or writing teams (specific topics cross-Pillar, or related to global symposia), new: GSP-Steering Committee

  • Other: EU Expert Group on Soil Protection and EIONET National Reference Centres Soil, as well as various working groups with soil expertise related to reporting under various policies (national, EU, global)

  • Implications of the global agenda with relevance to soils, for Europe: ITPS, global symposia, GSP products, relevant global policies and synergies, implications of the EU policy agenda

  • Agenda of the GSP Plenary, its implications, (national) position finding

  • Make ESP operational: GSP Secretariat and web platform; National Focal Point representative in the ESP-SC


Featured Soil Modeller

Modeling soil processes across scales: from roots to landscapes

Sara Bonetti received a BSc degree in 2009 and a MSc degree in 2011 in Civil Engineering, both from the University of Padova (Italy). From 2012 to 2014 she was a research assistant, first at Duke University (USA) and then at the University of Padova (Italy). In 2017, Sara spent one year at Princeton University (USA) as a visiting graduate student and in 2018 she obtained her PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Duke University. The focus of her doctoral dissertation was the analysis and modelling of landscape evolution and soil erosion. From August 2018 to July 2020, she was a postdoctoral associate at the Soil and Terrestrial Environmental Physics group at ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and, from March 2020, she has worked as a research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Resources at University College London (UK). In March 2021 Sara was appointed Assistant Professor at the Soil Physics and Land Management Group at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). Sara's work focuses on the quantitative description of land surface processes and ecosystem functioning. Her past and current research includes the analysis and modelling of landscape evolution and soil erosion, soil-​plant atmosphere interactions, vadose zone processes, environmental sustainability, plant hydraulics, and vegetation pattern formation.

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

My research focuses on the quantitative description of the complex dynamics characterizing a wide array of land surface processes using data analysis and various modelling approaches. Specifically, I am interested in the development of theoretical frameworks for the description of coupled ecohydrological and geomorphological processes to better understand the implications of soil erosion and different management practices on water and biogeochemical cycles, as well as the coevolution of vegetation, topography, and soil properties. Additionally, given the mismatch of scales between current soil-plant parameterizations and the (larger) scales of many modelling applications, my research also focuses on the development of improved macroscopic descriptions of soil-plant processes at the relevant spatial scale to advance the forecasting skills of existing land surface models.  Lastly, I am also interested in the development of novel frameworks for the description of coupled natural-human dynamics from local to global scales, the ultimate goal being the identification of critical sustainability thresholds and the definition of strategies for the synthesis of optimal management practices that simultaneously optimize production, guarantee local human well-being and preserve the environment.

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

I first became interested in soil modelling while working on the development of a mechanistic framework coupling a soil-plant model to a slab representation of the atmospheric boundary layer, in collaboration with colleagues at Duke University and University of Padova. During this time, I first became aware of the central role of root-zone processes beyond the soil compartment itself (e.g., impacts on surface energy fluxes, cloud formation, convective rainfall). During my PhD, I further had the opportunity to work on the Calhoun Critical Zone Observatory, an area in South Carolina where decades of intensive agricultural use greatly accelerated soil erosion and land degradation. Such an experience was highly instructive to start exploring and working on the impact of accelerated soil erosion on hillslope morphology. Later on, at ETH Zurich, I have started working with Dani Or on the development of a framework to incorporate soil structure effects into soil hydraulic properties - this collaboration was instrumental for introducing me to the ISMC community.

-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

My past and present research focuses on the following main topics:

-       The development of a state-of-the-art model for the description of complex eco-hydrological processes. Such framework was used to shed light on plant’s competition for light and water1, to quantify temporal and spatial variability of crop yield at the field scale2, and describe the impact of soil water on convective cloud formation mechanisms3.

-       The analysis and modelling of soil erosion and landscape evolution under natural4,5 and disturbed6 conditions.

-       The description and quantification of vegetation-induced soil structure effects on soil hydraulic properties and their effects on infiltration-runoff mechanisms from plot to global scales7,8.

-       Modelling and quantification of the environmental impacts of food production with a specific focus on national and global level water and soil sustainability indicators.

The modelling tools I have developed can be relevant to the broad ISMC Science Panel’s activities as they provide mechanistic frameworks for the description of various soil-related processes across different spatial and temporal scales. For example, my work on the development of soil hydraulic parameterizations accounting for soil structure corrections may be particularly relevant for the activities of the “Pedotransfer functions and land surface parameterization” working group.

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

ISMC aims at bringing together experts from different soil-related disciplines in order to advance our understanding and predicting capabilities of soil biological, physical, and chemical processes, as well as their relations to ecosystem services and management practices. As such, ISMC represents a unique opportunity to engage and collaborate with different colleagues, develop joint projects, and ultimately work at the forefront of soil modelling science.

- 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?

A skill I think early career members of ISMC should acquire is the ability to communicate and collaborate across disciplines, as most of the scientific challenges in soil modelling lie at the interfaces between biology, physics, and chemistry. This requires a broader understanding of processes and a convergence of disciples linking – for example – soil physics to plant physiology, hydrology, and geomorphology. In these regards, the organization of workshops, conferences, seminars, and working groups by ISMC is fundamental to foster collaborations and engage early careers in a dialogue with colleagues from different backgrounds. And lastly, I would recommend early career soil modelers to put an effort in truly understanding the theory behind models (and not being mere model users) – or, as my PhD advisor used to say, “do not be afraid of math!”. I believe this is essential to critically approach, develop, and use any model.



1 Manoli, G., Huang, C.W., Bonetti, S., Domec, J.C., Marani, M. and Katul, G., 2017. Competition for light and water in a coupled soil-plant system. Advances in Water Resources, 108, pp.216-230.

2 Manoli, G., Bonetti, S., Scudiero, E., Morari, F., Putti, M. and Teatini, P., 2015. Modeling Soil–Plant Dynamics: Assessing Simulation Accuracy by Comparison with Spatially Distributed Crop Yield Measurements. Vadose Zone Journal, 14(12), pp.1-13.

3 Bonetti, S., Manoli, G., Domec, J.C., Putti, M., Marani, M. and Katul, G.G., 2015. The influence of water table depth and the free atmospheric state on convective rainfall predisposition. Water Resources Research, 51(4), pp.2283-2297.

4 Bonetti, S. and Porporato, A., 2017. On the dynamic smoothing of mountains. Geophysical Research Letters, 44(11), pp.5531-5539.

5 Bonetti, S., Hooshyar, M., Camporeale, C. and Porporato, A., 2020. Channelization cascade in landscape evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(3), pp.1375-1382.

6 Bonetti, S., Richter, D.D. and Porporato, A., 2019. The effect of accelerated soil erosion on hillslope morphology. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 44(15), pp.3007-3019.

7 Bonetti, S., Wei, Z. and Or, D., 2021. A framework for quantifying hydrologic effects of soil structure across scales. Communications Earth & Environment, 2(1), pp.1-10.

8 Gupta, S., Lehmann, P., Bonetti, S., Papritz, A. and Or, D., 2021. Global Prediction of Soil Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity Using Random Forest in a Covariate‐Based GeoTransfer Function (CoGTF) Framework. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 13(4), p.e2020MS002242.

News Archive

Looking for older announcements?
Visit the archive here.

This is Pacific Theme