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ISMC News 23rd Feb. 2021

ISMC Conference - Abstract deadline; Carbon Working Group Recruitment; Featured Paper; Featured Soil Modeler


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

Abstract deadline: 15th March 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:

Conference goals:

  •     Engagement during scientific sessions
  •     Active interaction and discussions
  •     Excellent oral talks and poster presentations


Scientific Sessions:

  1.     Integration of Soil Processes in Global Land Surface/Earth System Models
  2.     Modelling soil formation as a function of critical zone processes
  3.     Modelling at the interface of soil and plant
  4.     Model soil contamination and transport of pollutants
  5.     Scaling soil biogeochemical models
  6.     Modeling surface runoff and soil erosion at various scales: data, process, and mathematical representation
  7.     Landscape heterogeneity: pragmatic modelling, methodology standards, harmonized measurements – and related challenges
  8.     Modelling and evaluation of soil functions at all scales
  9.     Modelling biogeochemical fluxes and soil organic carbon dynamics in soil systems
  10.     Advances in soil modeling through data analytics, machine learning and prediction


Carbon WG Recruitment

We are starting a new ISMC project focusing on comparing global soil carbon maps generated with ML products to soil carbon maps generated using a reduced complexity process model. This may be one way to address global soil storage potential, and/or a way to highlight shortcomings in our understanding of the global biogeochemical cycle. We are looking for collaborators! We are looking for folks to help identify data sets, code, think about comparison metrics, and write up the results. Please note that for co-authorship on the manuscript you are expected to participate significantly in both the draft phase AND in either the analysis formulation and/or coding; other contributions are welcome and will be acknowledged in the acknowledgements and/or as contributors to the repository.

If this sounds interesting to you please come to our next meeting March 10th 1600UTC (call in information is here:

We look forward to seeing you there!

-Kathe Todd-Brown

Jan Vanderborght

Roland Baatz

Sagar Gautam

Umakant Mishra

Martine van der Ploeg

Featured Paper

The role of vadose zone physics in the ecohydrological response of a Tibetan meadow to freeze–thaw cycles

Lianyu Yu, Simone Fatichi, Yijian Zeng, and Zhongbo Su

Abstract: The vadose zone is a zone sensitive to environmental changes and exerts a crucial control in ecosystem functioning and even more so in cold regions considering the rapid change in seasonally frozen ground under climate warming. While the way in representing the underlying physical process of the vadose zone differs among models, the effect of such differences on ecosystem functioning and its ecohydrological response to freeze–thaw cycles are seldom reported. Here, the detailed vadose zone process model STEMMUS (Simultaneous Transfer of Energy, Mass and Momentum in Unsaturated Soil) was coupled with the ecohydrological model Tethys–Chloris (T&C) to investigate the role of influential physical processes during freeze–thaw cycles. The physical representation is increased from using T&C coupling without STEMMUS enabling the simultaneous mass and energy transfer in the soil system (liquid, vapor, ice) – and with explicit consideration of the impact of soil ice content on energy and water transfer properties – to using T&C coupling with it. We tested model performance with the aid of a comprehensive observation dataset collected at a typical meadow ecosystem on the Tibetan Plateau. Results indicated that (i) explicitly considering the frozen soil process significantly improved the soil moisture/temperature profile simulations and facilitated our understanding of the water transfer processes within the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum; (ii) the difference among various representations of vadose zone physics have an impact on the vegetation dynamics mainly at the beginning of the growing season; and (iii) models with different vadose zone physics can predict similar interannual vegetation dynamics, as well as energy, water, and carbon exchanges, at the land surface. This research highlights the important role of vadose zone physics for ecosystem functioning in cold regions and can support the development and application of future Earth system models.

Abstract Figure: Coupling procedure of the STEMMUS and T&C models. METEO is the meteorology forcing, and SVAT is acronym for the soil–vegetation–atmosphere mass and heat transfer. Ts, Es, Tr, and WIS are the surface temperature, soil evaporation, plant transpiration, and incoming water flux to the soil, respectively. Tdp and V are the soil profiles of temperature (in ∘C) and liquid water volume in each layer (mm).

How to cite: Yu, L., Fatichi, S., Zeng, Y., and Su, Z.: The role of vadose zone physics in the ecohydrological response of a Tibetan meadow to freeze–thaw cycles, The Cryosphere, 14, 4653–4673,, 2020.


Featured Soil Modeler

Taking the plus of soil physical and hydrological properties and processes in cold and arid regions

Hailong He is an associate professor at the College of Natural Resources and Environment, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi, China. Graduated from the University of Alberta, Canada, with Ph.D. in water and land resources, he is a soil physicist and hydrologist motivated to work on the fate and transport of mass and energy in cold and arid regions. He develops and applies new techniques and methods to measure and model soil physical and hydrological properties from point to global scales. He has been serving the broader soil and hydrological science communities through extension and outreach. Examples include his membership of a wide range of professional societies (e.g., ISMC, SSSA, EGU, IACS, CSCS, and SSSC) or advisory boards and as reviewers for the science funding agencies at national or state levels, his service as Associate Editors (3 journals: European Journal of Soil Science, Soil Science Society of America Journal and Vadose Zone journal) and as reviewers for over 30 journals across a range of disciplines. He also served as Chair/Convener/Moderator in many conference sessions on soil physics and hydrology.

University faculty page:


Google Scholar:

- Please tell us briefly about yourself and your research interest.
The overall goal of my research is to develop new techniques and methods to better measure and model soil physical and hydrological properties for a better understanding of the processes of water, heat, solute, and greenhouse gas within soils and at the land-surface under changing climate and land use, benchmark and improve process representation in different genera of models to increase prediction reliability. At present, I have been synthesizing measurements/datasets and predictive models for soil thermal and soil hydraulic properties, developing new predictive models, and bridging the thermal and hydrological properties quantitatively based on their similarities.
-  How did you first become interested in soil modelling and learn about ISMC?
 My interest in soil modeling started during my master’s studies when I realized the value and power of modeling and simulation tools to understand various soil physical and hydrological processes when I was involved in a groundwater recharge project. The facts, including the underrepresentation of many physical processes in numerical models, over parameterization, and “garbage in and garbage out,” motivated me to develop new techniques and tools (e.g., instruments and software) to make more reliable measurements and new predictive models to represent soil physical processes better. I learned about the ISMC in around 2017 from my co-workers and subscribed to the ISMC newsletter. However, I have not been actively involved with the ISMC community until Drs. Anne Verhoef and Yijian Zeng invited me to join a working group exchanging ideas and collaborating with like-minded scientists worldwide. I appreciate this great opportunity.

-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
Currently, I am working on a synthesized database for soil thermal and hydraulic properties, evaluation of currently available soil thermal conductivity models (Ref.1-5), development of new models for broader applications, and bridging soil thermal and hydraulic properties (Ref. 6-7), and the synthesis of datasets on global soil thermal properties and global soil mineralogy. My research identifies knowledge gaps, reduces uncertainties in modelling, and facilitates a better prediction of soil thermal and hydraulic regimes by benchmarking with observation and improved process representation and modules. This sort of study is of interest to the land surface, hydrological, and SVAT communities.

-Please tell us how can ISMC help you advance in your career?
ISMC offers me an opportunity to network and collaborate with scientists worldwide through working groups and workshops/conferences. It provides me a fantastic opportunity and platform to learn soil modeling, soil modellers, research advances, and future directions.

- 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?
The most important skill for early career members are developing themselves as independent and self-motivated researchers while following academic integrity. They are encouraged to develop effective time management strategies for work-life, be willing to learn from, share and collaborate with fellow scientists and students. ISMC provides unique opportunities supporting early-career members by organizing different programmes/working groups, panels, discussions, and workshops/meetings with early career researchers’ involvement. There are many opportunities available for early-career members to network, learn, and collaborate with ISMC members or to be recognized by the community. ISMC also provides information on highly related job vacancies, and one can expand his/her group by advertising here.



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