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ISMC News December 2020

ISMC Conference - Virtual Meeting 18-22 May 2021


20th Jan.          Call for submitting abstracts
14th March        Deadline for submitting abstracts
11th April           Notification of accepted abstracts
18th April           Early-bird registration deadline
3rd May             Late registration deadline
7th May             Deadline for uploading talks
18th May            Start of Conference sessions  

Program includes:

  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


ISMC responds to the new EU Soil Strategy

Healthy Soil for a Healthy Life highlighting the need to account for long term processes and the key role of modeling in prediction.

The International Soil Modeling Consortium (ISMC) strongly supports the new EU Soil Strategy to develop knowledge-based management options to support the formulated objectives. The consortium’s Executive Board envisions European scale soil databases providing concrete evidence for high-resolution soil process models synergized with Copernicus Earth Observation Services. These will be some key components of a soil strategy implementation. The 2017 Report of the EU Soil Thematic Strategy identified a gap between science, policymakers, and society. The strategy to overcome this gap requires measures for exchange, integration, and dissemination of knowledge on maintaining soil ecosystem functioning. It urges for a concept to promote, integrate, and strengthen soil-related data availability and model capacity so that stakeholders and the broader public can better understand soil and soil processes' status and importance. To this end, developing knowledge and research is instrumental in guiding the gap between the goals of the new EU Soil Strategy and how to get there. Beyond the challenges addressed in the New Soil Strategy, we suggest consideration of three further challenges:

  1. Integrate soil, crop, and socio-economic models to assess economic impacts on soil functions and services over different scales. Such modeling efforts inform long term monitoring campaigns on which processes need careful observation. These models integrate data, processes, and transdisciplinary knowledge in a machine-readable format.
  2. Assess the implications of proposed policies through pilots. We point out increasing carbon stocks by conservation tillage takes 3-5 decades to be detected (Angers and Eriksen-Hamel 2008, Haddaway et al. 2017). We highlight the challenge for the New Soil Strategy to consider massive calibration of expectations.
  3. Assess the costs and benefits of land management on soil degradation, thereby informing policy in a meaningful way on medium and long-term costs and gains of soil management scenarios. Land degradation (in terms of SOC) due to land-use conversion is rapid (a decade or two) in adverse to soil carbon sequestration processes and chronic compaction effects. Restoration considers a policy-planning period of half a century.


The new EU Soil Strategy will provide additional stimulus for the exchange of ideas and data between the different disciplines of soil, agricultural, and socio-economic sciences. Together, these disciplines can provide solutions towards sustainable food production and ecosystem services, against the backdrop of societal developments, with novel soil management. The existing approaches are rudimentary, and urgently need to be further developed, tested, and improved through regional and continental scale pilots.

The challenge of assessing soil functions, integrity, and related optimal land management is complex as the scope is broadened to include soil-biosphere and land-atmosphere interactions and feedback (Seneviratne et al. 2010). This challenge emphasizes the need to develop climate-smart agricultural production systems. Management strategies need to be developed that combine real-time monitoring of key soil state variables with forecasting systems for soil-plant systems from field to farm to region scales, and that will enable stakeholders to make timely decisions based on science and rationality. Also, on non-arable lands, challenges emerge related to post-fire restoration, logging, and erosion, land-use conversion, thawing permafrost, and drying wetlands. A diverse suite of models to simulate soil system functions has emerged in response to this challenge. Several reviews (Arora 2002; Seneviratne et al. 2010; Vereecken et al. 2016; Vereecken et al. 2019) were dedicated to describing the progress in and challenges for this interdisciplinary modeling community. On the one hand, the reviews highlight progress made in terms of numerical approaches and data integration, expansion in process complexity and spatial resolution, dealing with heterogeneity and uncertainty. On the other hand, the reviews point to limitations in model performance, challenges in integration, such as multiple feedback processes, that are often not represented in numerical models, and unsolved issues when upscaling processes and predictions with the aim of capturing ecosystem responses and interactions with climatic, environmental, and society, as they evolve.

By bringing together the experience and expertise of researchers in the field of soil and land surface modeling, soil ecosystem functions and services, and the socio-economic methods for resource evaluation, and sharing data and knowledge with related earth system science disciplines, ISMC sees a role for the EU to include such directions into its new EU Soil strategy.

Special Issue: Advances in Hydrological Monitoring with Unmanned Aerial Systems

Keywords: UAS, Hydrology, Rivers, Vegetation, Environmental Monitoring

Editors: Salvatore Manfreda, Silvano Fortunato Dal Sasso, Anette Eltner, Matthew Perks, Yijian Zeng

In recent years, the wide use of UASs for environmental monitoring has led to a significant growth of the number of applications for monitoring hydrological and hydraulic variables (vegetation status, soil moisture content and river flow). For this reason, there is a serious challenge to define Unmanned Aerial System methodologies developed for specific scopes, exploring uncertainty and sensitivity assessments. Moreover, there is a growing need to harmonize and provide standardized procedures applicable across a broad range of environments and conditions. This can allow the closure of the existing gap between large scale observations and local observations helping scientists to close the water budgets and improve the consistency of ecohydrological models.

Advances on Unmanned Aerial System-based methodologies, algorithms and technologies should be promoted to enhance hydrological science. Therefore, with this Research Topic, we would like to promote research which explores the contribution that UASs can provide on hydrological observations, understanding of hydraulic and hydrological processes and development of modelling approaches. Please check details and make your own contributions with the following link:

Areal view of largely irrigated fields along the Nile River (Credit: Katja Bigge distributed via


Featured Soil Modeller

On the Value of Analytical Solutions in Soil Physics
Morteza Sadeghi is an Environmental Scientist at California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). He has been a member of the ISMC community for several years, and recently he joined the ISMC executive board as an early career member. He is a soil physicist and hydrologist and is interested in fundamental studies of mass and energy transfer in the vadose zone. He develops physically-based models to estimate the water cycle components based on remote sensing observations. We interviewed him to learn how he built his research career that bridged underground physics with satellite remote sensing.


-       Please tell us briefly about yourself and your research interest.
The overarching goal of my research is to develop novel models and remote sensing techniques to advance understanding of the hydrologic cycle and its shifts in response to natural and anthropogenic forcing. A critical component of the hydrologic cycle is ‘soil moisture’ that has been at the center of my research over the past decade. Recently, I strived to extract information of other crucial hydrologic variables such as land surface water flux and groundwater recharge mainly from remotely sensed surface soil moisture data.
-       How did you first become interested in soil modelling and learn about ISMC?
In 2005, when I was a master student, I took a ‘Soil Physics’ class, where our teacher, Dr. Bijan Ghahraman, conveyed the beauty of soil physical principles in a warm and understandable manner by conducting simple experiments, explained based on simple laws of physics and mathematics. By relying on recently published research articles rather than old textbook knowledge, he showed us how dynamic scientific discovery can be, and more importantly, how simple creative ideas can lead to great scientific discoveries. This experience sparked my interest in developing my own new ideas and solutions in soil physics. I learned about ISMC a few years back. I found it an excellent opportunity to learn about the frontiers of soil modeling and exchange ideas within a dynamic network of soil modelers.  
-       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.
We recently developed an analytical model to estimate the land surface net water flux (NWF) using only surface soil moisture data []. Due to the simple nature of this model, we could successfully apply it on a global scale using the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) soil moisture data. This model showed great potential for retrieving global NWF and potentially ‘groundwater recharge’ from space []. This is example showing how a soil model can benefit other disciplines. So, one contribution of my research to ISMC Science Panel’s activities could be to help connecting ISMC to other scientific communities such as remote sensing or land surface modeling communities.
-       Please tell us how can ISMC help you advance in your career?
ISMC offers a great network of soil modelers. So, it is an excellent opportunity to learn about research of other soil modelers and potentially develop new collaborations. ISMC encourages various working groups on various topics, that can be proposed by any ISMC member. So, it provides great opportunity for better understanding of the critical knowledge gaps in soil modeling, which need to be addressed in the future. Hence, it can sharpen our research questions and better lead us to the right research direction. ISMC also encourages webinars on various aspects of soil modeling, where new knowledge and ideas can be exchanged.

-       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 abovementioned analytical model of net water flux was derived by inversion of a 1975 solution to the moisture flow equation by the legendary soil physicist and mathematician—Arthur W. Warrick. In other words, I am harvesting something that Warrick and others planted years ago. That should be the real meaning of “impact” in science, rather than the number of citations or other cyberspace metrics. It’s worth mentioning that Warrick’s (1975) paper got only 75 citations over 45 years! So, my recommendation for the younger ISMC members is to pursue the “real impact” in their research, by developing new tools, models, or products that can build new steps for current and future scientists. In this regard, ISMC activities can help early career scientist better understand important knowledge gaps in soil modeling and learn about new methods and techniques to close these knowledge gaps.




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