IUSS Alert - 45 (January 2009)

Information for and from the global soil science community

Happy New Year!

Soil Flyers

The year 2008 is over and 2009 has just started. First of all, may it be a healthy and prosperous year for all of you! Although the world slipped in some sort of economic valley in 2008, the year has been a good one for soil science. Many new international projects have started, over 18,000 soil publications have been published, the appreciation for soils and our discipline is much on the rise, and so are job vacancies and student numbers - all indicators of the vigour of soil science. The world seems to refocus on real things that really matter and on real matters, including the soil. In 2008 the IUSS has stimulated and promoted soil science across the globe; one of the efforts has been an A4 flyer that briefly highlights the importance of soils. The flyer has been translated in Bahasa, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Danish, Korean, Polish, Finnish, Russian, French, Spanish, Greek, Thai, Hungarian, and Turkish. They are all as PDFs on www.iuss.org and can be freely downloaded. Although the survival of our discipline depends on imagination and great new scientific development, it is with these flyers that we can educate and generate interest into the natural resource on which so much depends: the soil. Use them, and have a Happy 2009!

Alfred Hartemink
Deputy Secretary-General IUSS

New Pedometron

A new issue of Pedometron has been published in December. The chair of the Pedometrics commission, Murray Lark, notes that 2008 was a year with two centenaries: W.S. Gosset's paper on the probable error of a mean, and F. Haber's discovery of the nitrogen reduction to ammonia. There are reports from the Third Global Workshop on Digital Soil Mapping in Utah and from EuroSoil in Vienna. The Newsletter contains interesting articles on boundaries in linear relationships, on experiments using data-mining techniques for digital soil mapping, and the origin of the soil formation equation by Alex McBratney and Budiman Minasny. Three books are reviewed and the best paper for 2007 is announced. There are details on the new IUSS working group on proximal soil sensing, and there is the pedometrician and non-pedometrician profile. The Newsletter can be downloaded here www.iuss.org and on www.pedometrics.org

Online directory of soil science groups

An on-line directory is available named 'geographical directory of soil-science research laboratories in the world'.  The directory lists 218 laboratories in 43 countries (laboratory means research institution, department, group, cluster etc.) The main features are:  Good coverage of laboratories for western Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand;  Designed with students and young researchers in mind; may be useful for associations looking for a 'local' soil science 'referee', or for soil scientists in need for a large database of laboratories; Extensive use of Google tools: Maps, Earth, Documents. (+ off-line scripting with R language); Available in various format that makes it easy to export in another 'system' (basic CSV file, KMZ, HTML/Bookmark). It is also available in French and has been prepared by Julien Moeys and for more information click here or mail

Couple of new books

Tropical Resource Management Papers. Free access to over 90 PDFs (1990-2008) of the Tropical Resource Management Papers. The main objective of this series of papers is to allow a wider distribution than the circuit of international scientific journals for the results of research on (sub)tropical resource management. The series is written by researchers and graduate students working within the framework of Wageningen research projects. Since the start in 1992, the focus of TRMP broadened from Sahel countries to the whole of Africa and to the whole of developing countries in the tropics. Since 2008 digital versions of more than 90 books are available. However, in some countries access to internet is often slow and scarce and for this reason its will be possible, upon request, to receive hard copies of the TRMP books. Click here for more information or e-mail

Microbiological Methods For Assessing Soil Quality. Edited by J. Bloem, Alterra, Wageningen, The Netherlands; D.W. Hopkins, University of Stirling, UK; A. Benedetti, Instituto Sperimentale per la Nutrizione delle Piante, Rome, Italy. With growing concern about the protection of soil quality and biodiversity many countries have established regional and national programmes to monitor soil quality. This book reviews the theory and practice of a range of the various microbiological methods used within these programmes. The first section gives an overview of approaches to monitoring, evaluating and managing soil quality. The second section provides a practical handbook with detailed descriptions of the methods. The methods are described in chapters on soil microbial biomass and numbers, soil microbial activity, soil microbial diversity and community composition, and plant-microbe interactions and soil quality. Finally, a census is given of the main methods used in over 30 European microbiological laboratories.

Quickening the Earth: Soil Minding and Mending in Ireland. J.F. Collins, School of Biological and Environmental Science, UCD, Dublin, 2008. This book documents the ways and means adopted by generations of Irish farmers to maintain and restore soil fertility over many centuries. All available natural materials were used: calcareous corals, clays, gravels, sands and shells; burnt lime; stable manures, composts, and seaweed/kelp. Separate chapters are also devoted to lime-burning; paring/burning/subsoil roasting; and to the shorter histories of warping/watering; salt/guano imports and bone treatment/products. As well as documenting advances in soil and agricultural sciences, and drawing material from the husbandries and the economic/social sciences, this book highlights the contributions made by Irish writers to the knowledge of soils and especially to the problem of soil acidity. Though focussed on Ireland, the research is likely to be of interest to those working in many disciplines including soil management, chemistry, fertility and pedology.  E-mail:   Price $40.00; packaging and posting extra.

Videos on missions in space-time

Nature Video presents five short films on the future of physics. Recorded at the 2008 Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, these films capture the conversations between young researchers and physics Laureates George Smoot, William Phillips, John Hall, David Gross and Gerardus 't Hooft. They grapple with universal ideas including dark matter, dark energy, the Large Hadron Collider, space-time and quantum computing. Click here to see these videos.

Conferences, meetings, workshops

Complexity and nonlinearity in soils. Vienna, Austria, 19-24, April 2009. This EGU Session focuses on modeling and quantification of soil systems, looking at them as the zone of numerous interactions between the mineral material of the original and added rock, soil life (micro-organisms, plants, animals), climate (water, air, temperature), and its position in the landscape. We expect studies using an integrated, cross-disciplinary approach, whether based on statistical approaches that allow for scaling behavior analysis, on fully formulated physical-biogeochemical models or on other methods and techniques of complex systems science. For more information contact


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