Update: 03.08.2017

Soil stores 10% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

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The International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) is the global union of soil scientists. The objectives of the IUSS are to promote all branches of soil science, and to support all soil scientists across the world in the pursuit of their activities. This website provides information for IUSS members and those interested in soil science.

in memoriam - Wim Sombroek (1934-2003)

Dr ir Wim Sombroek (1934-2003)

Wim Sombroek, who died on 19th December 2003 at the age of 69 years, was Secretary General of the International Society of Soil Science from 1978 to 1990, and was an officer in a number of ISSS/IUSS Working Groups and Commissions.

Wim_So1He was born in Heiloo, The Netherlands, on 27 August 1934. He obtained his M.Sc at Wageningen University in 1959, and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1963 on the thesis ‘Amazon Soils’ This well-known book was based on his work in Belem, Brazil, as member of the FAO/Unesco team for forestry research and animal husbandry. It was during this period that his great interest in the soils and ecology of Amazonia started, which eventually resulted in his return to the region in 1989.

From 1963 till 1965 he worked as soil surveyor in the UNDP/FAO Sokoto Valley Project in Nigeria. After his African work he stayed three years in Treinta y Tres, Uruguay, at the UNDP/FAO Regional Project for Development of the Laguna Merin Basin, where he was responsible for the soil survey of the entire basin. After having been a staff member of the International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement in Wageningen, he became in 1972 Project Manager of the Kenya Soil Survey Project. This resulted in the co-authored publication in 1982 of ‘The Exploratory Soil Map and Agroclimatic Zone Map of Kenya’. Kenya was the first country in Africa with such a detailed soils inventory.

From 1978 to 1991 he was Director of the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC), which he combined until 1990 with being Secretary General of the ISSS. This combination proved very beneficial for both institutions. ISRIC was established by the Dutch Government in 1966 on the assignment of Unesco, and put forward by the ISSS. A number of ISSS projects were partly or wholly carried out at ISRIC, e.g. the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB) and the World Soils and Terrain Digital Database (SOTER), which helped ISRIC to become a well-known institution all over the world. At the initiative of Wim Sombroek, UNEP commissioned ISRIC to make an assessment of the state of human-induced soil degradration at a worldwide scale. The GLASOD project published in 1990 a world map at a scale of 1 to 10 million and accompanying text of which Wim was co-author. This assessment is still widely used.

Wim moved to Rome in 1991, Italy, to become Director of the Land and Water Development Division of FAO, a position he held until 1996. Besides his many administrative and organizational duties he published widely about carbon sequestration, landuse planning, land degradation and the assessment of the productive capacity of soils, also in relation to climate change. He was the (co)editor of a number of books on these subjects.

Returning to the Amazon, he worked, with Manaus as base, in a World Bank-financed project on ecological-economic zoning. He was fascinated by the Terra Preta dos Indios about which he published recently, but spent also time on his hobby: archaeology, including old Dutch fortresses along the Amazon river and its tributaries.

Because of his many internationally recognized activities in the field of soil science, Dr ir W.G. Sombroek was elected Honorary Member of the ISSS at the 16th World Congress of Soil Science in Montpellier in 1998. In 2003 Wim Sombroek became the first Honorary Fellow of ISRIC, World Soil Information. In his home town Wageningen, he had an active contribution to the study and safeguarding of the historical developments since its establishment in the 12th century. Locally, nationally and internationally, he will be missed in many circles.

The members of the International Union of Soil Sciences offer their condolences to Mrs. Willemijn Sombroek, their four daughters, husbands and grand children.

IN MEMORIAM

Dr ir Wim Sombroek 1934-2003

Wim Sombroek, who died on 19th December 2003 at the age of 69 years, was Secretary General of the International Society of Soil Science from 1978 to 1990, and was an officer in a number of ISSS/IUSS Working Groups and Commissions.

He was born in Heiloo, The Netherlands, on 27 August 1934. He obtained his M.Sc at Wageningen University in 1959, and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1963 on the thesis ?Amazon Soils? This well-known book was based on his work in Belem, Brazil, as member of the FAO/Unesco team for forestry research and animal husbandry. It was during this period that his great interest in the soils and ecology of Amazonia started, which eventually resulted in his return to the region in 1989.

From 1963 till 1965 he worked as soil surveyor in the UNDP/FAO Sokoto Valley Project in Nigeria. After his African work he stayed three years in Treinta y Tres, Uruguay, at the UNDP/FAO Regional Project for Development of the Laguna Merin Basin, where he was responsible for the soil survey of the entire basin. After having been a staff member of the International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement in Wageningen, he became in 1972 Project Manager of the Kenya Soil Survey Project. This resulted in the co-authored publication in 1982 of ?The Exploratory Soil Map and Agroclimatic Zone Map of Kenya?. Kenya was the first country in Africa with such a detailed soils inventory.

From 1978 to 1991 he was Director of the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC), which he combined until 1990 with being Secretary General of the ISSS. This combination proved very beneficial for both institutions. ISRIC was established by the Dutch Government in 1966 on the assignment of Unesco, and put forward by the ISSS. A number of ISSS projects were partly or wholly carried out at ISRIC, e.g. the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB) and the World Soils and Terrain Digital Database (SOTER), which helped ISRIC to become a well-known institution all over the world. At the initiative of Wim Sombroek, UNEP commissioned ISRIC to make an assessment of the state of human-induced soil degradration at a worldwide scale. The GLASOD project published in 1990 a world map at a scale of 1 to 10 million and accompanying text of which Wim was co-author. This assessment is still widely used.

Wim moved to Rome in 1991, Italy, to become Director of the Land and Water Development Division of FAO, a position he held until 1996. Besides his many administrative and organizational duties he published widely about carbon sequestration, landuse planning, land degradation and the assessment of the productive capacity of soils, also in relation to climate change. He was the (co)editor of a number of books on these subjects.

Returning to the Amazon, he worked, with Manaus as base, in a World Bank-financed project on ecological-economic zoning. He was fascinated by the Terra Preta dos Indios about which he published recently, but spent also time on his hobby: archaeology, including old Dutch fortresses along the Amazon river and its tributaries.

Because of his many internationally recognized activities in the field of soil science, Dr ir W.G. Sombroek was elected Honorary Member of the ISSS at the 16th World Congress of Soil Science in Montpellier in 1998. In 2003 Wim Sombroek became the first Honorary Fellow of ISRIC, World Soil Information. In his home town Wageningen, he had an active contribution to the study and safeguarding of the historical developments since its establishment in the 12th century. Locally, nationally and internationally, he will be missed in many circles.

The members of the International Union of Soil Sciences offer their condolences to Mrs. Willemijn Sombroek, their four daughters, husbands and grand children.