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ISMC News June 20

Announcements + Featured Paper + Featured Soil Modeller

Special Issue "Advances in dynamic soil modelling across scales" in SOIL 
Soils are composed of solid (mineral and organic), liquid (water and solutes) and gaseous phases. The spatial organization and structure of the solid phase is referred to as soil architecture, and determines fluxes of the liquid and gaseous phases. Traditionally, soil architecture is assumed to be stable over timescales relevant to soil functions, such as carbon, nutrient and water cycling. However, this assumption neglects the dynamic nature of soil architecture, especially under changes in land use and climate. Dynamics of pore structure and soil aggregates and redistribution of soil material through mixing and erosion continuously reshape the soil architecture over short to long timescales, affecting the functions of soils. To comprehensively understand soil functionality in  a changing world, it’s imperative to view soils as dynamic, four-dimensional systems.

This special issue invites papers that study soil dynamics using numerical and statistical models. The focus will be on the development of model-based representations, or digital twins, of soil systems to study soil processes, dynamics and functions from the pore to the landscape scale, and from diurnal dynamics to millennial evolution. By bringing together modellers and models that work on different spatiotemporal scales, we aim at synergies between soil hydrology, soil physics, soil geography and soil ecology to develop holistic soil models that consider soils and their functions as dynamic systems. 

The special issue is an initiative of the German Soil Science Society group 2/3D Soil Modeling and ISMC. If you like to submit a paper to this special please send an email to with title and list of authors. Deadline for final submission is early next year but accepted papers will be published already after acceptance.

Project seeks for high resolution precipitation and soil water content data
A CUAHSI funded USGS Powell Center synthesis effort on identifying where and when preferential flow occurs is looking for high-frequency precipitation and soil moisture data. We offer co-authorship of the data paper to all persons who contribute observations to the study. 
We are looking for precipitation and soil moisture time series that have measurement frequencies of less than 30 minutes. Soil moisture measurements should cover at least 12 months and be done at least at two different soil depths.

Please see this webpage ( where you see examples of the data format and meta data information we ask you to provide about your study site(s) and how to upload the data.
Thanks a lot for your contribution to this community effort.

Save the date for EUROSOIL 2025:  8 to 12 September 2025 Seville, Spain
The next EUROSOIL conference will take place from 8th to 12th of September 2025 in Seville, Spain. Please save the date and check the skeleton program. The conference will be organized along topics and individual sessions will be organized after receiving the abstracts.

Featured Paper
Do you want your paper featured?
Please share your recent paper if you want to be featured in the ISMC newsletter. With your contributions, we will select one paper to be featured in every newsletter. Submission can be done here

Temporal covariance of spatial soil moisture variations: A mechanistic error modeling approach
When estimating field-scale average soil moisture from sensors measuring at fixed positions, spatial variability in soil moisture leads to “measurement errors” of the spatial mean, which may persist over time due to persistent soil moisture patterns resulting in autocorrelated measurement errors. The uncertainty of parameters that are derived from such measurements may be underestimated when they are assumed to be independent. Temporal autocorrelation models assume stationary random errors, but such error models are not necessarily applicable to soil moisture measurements. As an alternative, we propose a mechanistic error model that is based on the spatial variability of the water retention curve and assumes a uniform water potential. We tested whether spatial soil moisture variability and its temporal covariance could be predicted based on (1) mean soil moisture, (2) water retention variability, and (3) (co)variances of the van Genuchten parameters using a first-order expansion of the retention curve. The proposed models were tested in a numerical and a field experiment. For the field experiment, in situ sensor measurements and water retention curves were obtained in a field plot. Both experiments showed that water retention variability under a uniform water potential is a good predictor for spatial soil moisture variability, and that soil moisture errors are strongly correlated in time and neglecting them would be an incorrect assumption. The temporal error covariance could be predicted as a function of the mean moisture contents at two observation times. Further research is required to assess the impact of these temporal correlations on soil moisture predictions.
More details can be found here

Featured Soil Modeler (Katharina Meurer)

Dynamic modeling of soil-plant interactions 

Katharina Meurer is researcher at SLU and member of the Soil Nutrient Cycling group led by Prof. Anke Herrmann. She studied Geoecology in Braunschweig (Germany) and did her PhD at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Halle (Saale) and the University of Koblenz-Landau. In 2016, she moved to Sweden (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU) and has since then been working on soil organic carbon and soil structure modeling.

- Please tell us briefly about yourself and your research interest.
My research interest is in the cycling of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in soil and the mathematical description of underlying processes. This involves C sequestration and soil organic matter, as well as fluxes of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the soil to the atmosphere. My main focus is on agricultural soils and how soil management influences the soil´s structure and nutrient cycling and how management practices can be adapted in order to ensure healthy and productive soils under a future climate. Within the EJP SOIL program (, we work towards sustainable soil management practices at the national, but also European scale. I am involved in several projects under the EJP SOIL umbrella, in which we further develop and use different models to get a better idea about the potential benefits of different agricultural strategies related to crop breeding, (mixed) rotations and soil management. In my own project, I work on the effects of drought on the development of grass ley and the interactions with soil structure. For this, we set up a field experiment and study the behavior of the grass ley in terms of above- and belowground biomass allocation. In another project that focusses on legume symbiotic nitrogen fixation (N2CROP;, my work is on the improved modelling of cereal-legume intercropping and, in particular, the integration of nitrogen fixation regulation mutants in soil-crop models.

-  How did you first become interested in soil modelling and learn about ISMC?
I was introduced to soil modelling during my master studies in Braunschweig. I wrote my master thesis in the group of Prof Wolfgang Durner and worked on modeling water flow in large lysimeters using the Hydrus model. During my PhD, I focused more on the carbon and nitrogen cycling and tested different models (Candy, DNDC and DailyDayCent) for greenhouse gas emissions in Southern Amazonia. During that time, I got to know the ISMC consortium and was able to participate in the first ISMC conference in Austin, Texas. But it was only when I started a PostDoc in Nick Jarvis´ group that I started working on modeling soil structure dynamics.

-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
In the last years, I worked together with Nick Jarvis, Elsa Coucheney and others on soil structure dynamics and the dynamic modeling of soil-plant interactions. This work started with a model that links changes in soil structure and soil organic carbon content and turnover and has now developed towards a soil-crop model (USSF – Uppsala Model for Soil Structure and Functions) with focus on the dynamic interaction between plant (e.g., root growth), soil (e.g., influence of soil structure dynamics on soil hydraulic properties and water flow) and management (e.g., tillage and incorporation of organic matter from belowground residues or of exogenous sources). 

-Please tell us how can ISMC help you advance in your career?
ISMC provides a fantastic platform for interested soil modelers, in particular early-career scientists. The features “Discover Data” and “Find your Soil Model” give a good overview over what is available in the soil modeling community, which has been very helpful for me already.

- 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?
I see building networks as one of the big potentials and tasks of the ISMC. Organizing seminars, PhD schools or sessions specifically for young and early-career scientists would certainly help them to get in contact with other modelers in the community. 


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