IUSS Alert - 44 (December 2008)

Information for and from the global soil science community

Soil on the Nature cover

There are no weekly soil science articles published in the top journals. The 30th October issue of the international weekly journal of science, Nature, has a soil profile on the cover and two articles on what presumably are paleosols. The Nature cover shows a soil pit from Western Thailand, where the different layers have been deposited during the 2004 and past tsunamis that took place in the fourteenth and fifteenth century. Similar observations have been made in Aceh, Indonesia, where the 2004 sand sheets were preceded by the deposits of three tsunamis from the past 1200 years. The Thailand and Indonesia findings suggest that the 2004 tsunamis is neither the first nor the last of its kind.

Couple of new books

A Handbook of Tropical Soil Biology.  Sampling and Characterization of Below-ground Biodiversity, by Fatima M. S. Moreira, E. Jeroen Huising and David E. Bignell. Eartscan,  2008, hardback 9781844076215 $85.00. This practical handbook describes sampling and laboratory assessment methods for the biodiversity of a number of key functional groups of soil organisms, including insects, earthworms, nematodes, fungi and bacteria. The methods have been assembled and the protocols drafted by a number of scientists associated with the UNEP-GEF funded Conservation and Sustainable Management of Below-Ground Biodiversity Project, executed by the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility (TSBF) Institute of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). The methods provide a standardized basis for characterizing soil biodiversity and current land uses in terrestrial natural, semi-natural and agroecosystems in tropical forests and at forest margins. The aim is to assess soil biodiversity against current and historic land use practices both at plot and landscape scales and, further, to identify opportunities for improved sustainable land management through the introduction, management or remediation of soil biota, thus reducing the need for external inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. The book also contains extensive advice on the handling of specimens and the allocation of organisms to strain or functional group type.

Soil Analysis in Forensic Taphonomy: Chemical and Biological Effects of Buried Human Remains, by Mark Tibbett and David O. Carter (eds). CRC Press, Hardback, 2008.  $99.95. ISBN: 9781420069914. Soil Analysis in Forensic Taphonomy: Chemical and Biological Effects of Buried Human Remains is the first book to concentrate entirely on the telling impact of soil and its components on the postmortem fate of human remains. Examining the basic physicochemical composition of the soil as it relates to forensic science and taphonomy, leading experts from across the world: Offer an introduction to the nature, distribution, and origin of soil materials in forensic comparisons; Discuss the action of biological soil components, including invertebrates, fungi, and bacteria;        Address rates and processes of decomposition and time of death estimates; Detail methods for characterizing and fingerprinting soils; Provide extensive information on the decomposition of hair. Edited by Mark Tibbett, a soil microbiologist and David Carter, a forensic scientist, this unique resource provides an up-to-date overview of fundamental scientific principles and methods used in forensic taphonomy from a soils-based perspective. It provides an understanding of the processes at work, as well as practical methods and advice for those involved with active investigation.

Land Change Science in the Tropics -  Changing Agricultural Landscapes, by Millington, Andrew; Jepson, Wendy (Eds.) Springer, 2008, XVIII, 274 p. 50 illus., Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0-387-78863-0. Land use and land-cover change research over the past decade has focused mainly on contemporary primary land-cover conversions in the tropics and sub-tropics, with considerable resources dedicated to the explanation and prediction of tropical deforestation and often ignoring the dynamism in the world's agro-pastoral landscapes. This collection integrates cutting-edge research in the social, biogeophysical, and geographical information sciences to understand the human and environmental dynamics that change the type, magnitude and location of land uses and land covers in the changing countryside. Our contributors are from across the globe and draw on diverse empirical pan-tropical case studies and disciplinary influences. The research reported examines land-use and land-cover change in Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cote deIvoire, India, Malawi, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal and Thailand. Each chapter in this book advances one of three themes: (i) adaptations and change in settled agricultural zones, (ii) agricultural intensification, and (iii) markets and institutions. This book describes the monitoring of land-cover changes, explains the processes through which land is altered, and describes the development of spatially-explicit models to predict land change. This book illustrates how practitioners have integrated knowledge from the three scientific realms - social, biophysical, and GIScience - that underpin land-change science.

Claves para la Taxonomia de Suelos, Decima Edicion. (PDF; Spanish translation; 3.6MB) For decades, NRCS has worked with soil scientists from around the world to increase awareness and expand knowledge concerning the importance of soil and its impact on all aspects of life. By translating the 'Keys' into Spanish, many soil scientists and other professionals from Latino America, the United States, and other countries will benefit from this effort for years to come. According to NRCS leadership, it will expand the horizons of U.S. Soil Taxonomy by having professionals in all parts of the world applying and interpreting the system in a more uniform and consistent way. While soils differ globally, the ability to apply a system that is universally understood and accepted is a goal shared by many soil scientists. The translation of the 'Keys' into Spanish was the initiative of Luis Hernandez, Arkansas State Soil Scientist. In addition to the PDF file listed above, the publication is available on a CD and can be requested by contacting the National Soil Survey Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. A limited number of hard copies will be printed.

Conferences, meetings, workshops

Digital soil mapping: novel approaches to the prediction of key soil properties for modelling physical processes. Vienna, Austria, 19-24 April 2009. The EGU DSM Session focuses on the mapping of key parameters and input variables for modeling soil processes. As we consider more complex models, applied to larger geographical regions, the demand for information on these inputs becomes harder to meet. Digital soil mapping is concerned with the provision of spatial information on soil properties on the basis of ancillary variables, such as proxy and remote sensor data, and limited direct measurements. We are asking for 400-word abstracts (limited to one per presenting author). The deadline for abstract submission is 13 January 2009. For more information contact Florence Carre at 

The 11th International Symposium on Soil and Plant Analysis will be held at Santa Rosa, California, USA, July 20-24, 2009. The symposium will bring together agricultural and natural resource scientists from around the world to disseminate information on methodology, interpretation, and application of soil, plant, and water analysis for the purpose of efficient resource management, sustainable production, and the environment. Included is a two-day viticulture program consisting of morning and afternoon plenary sessions on July 21, 2009 followed by a full day field tour of vineyards in the North Coast area on July 22. The symposium website is www.isspa2009.com


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