Update: 27.05.2018

It can take more than 1000 years to form a centimeter of topsoil.

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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.

IUSS Alert 143 (May 2017)


IUSS News

Preparation of the World Congress of Soil Science 2018

The last months have seen a lot of progress with the preparation of the scientific programme of the 21st World Congress of Soil Science 2018. The programme will be available in June 2017. The next steps towards the Congress taking place from 12 to 17 August 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are the following:

- On-line registration and abstract submission open: June 2017
- Deadline for abstract submission: 30/11/2017
- Notification for abstract acceptance: 15/01/2018
- Deadline for early registration: 15/02/2018
- Deadline for regular registration: 12/05/2018

Please take note of these dates in order to submit your contribution and to register for the congress in time. We are looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the WCSS 2018.

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General News

The marvel of soil biodiversity

In this article, Leo M. Condron explains why the multitude of organisms actively making up the soil biomass are crucial to the survival and growth of all plants and animals. Most people are familiar with the concept of biodiversity. Its health and functional benefits are derived from the presence of many different plant and animal species in an environment. Biodiversity ‘hotspots’ support a vast variety of plant and animal species; an example being a tropical rainforest with up to 80,000 plant, 50,000 insect, 1,500 bird, and 2,000 mammal/amphibian species. However, the corresponding level of biodiversity present in the underlying soil environment is much greater than above-ground, with over 100,000 known species of bacteria and fungi, 25,000 species of nematodes, 40,000 species of mites, and 7,000 species of earthworms.
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Cattle-associated antibiotics disturb soil ecosystems

Manure from cattle administered antibiotics drastically changes the bacterial and fungal make-up of surrounding soil, leading to ecosystem dysfunction, according to a Virginia Tech research team. The team analysed soil samples from 11 dairy farms in the United States and found that the amount of antibiotic resistant genes was 200 times greater in soil near manure piles compared with soil that wasn’t. Furthermore, microbes with greater antibiotic resistance showed higher stress levels. Soil microbial communities are important for sustaining ecosystem services, such as climate regulation, soil fertility, and food production. Perturbations, such as antibiotic exposure, can have marked effects on soil microbes and these services.
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Is soil the great new integrator?

Farmers, researchers and development agencies are all increasing their focus on soil. Globally, change in the way land is used and managed puts pressure on soils to do more. Farmers are growing more monoculture crops; rotating them less; and leaving behind pesticide residues, polluted waters from fertilizer run off, carbon loss, and depleted aquifers. For some farmers though, attention to soil has been a business decision, leading to increased production and yields, and has helped them withstand weather extremes. In a recent survey, insight from 2,020 farmers from across the United States reflected enthusiasm for cover crops to help improve soils—for the fourth year in a row—and found a yield boost in corn and soybeans following cover crops.
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Monthly and seasonal rainfall erosivity in Europe

The development of the Rainfall Erosivity Database at European Scale (REDES) and its 2015 update with the extension to monthly component allowed to develop monthly and seasonal R-factor maps and assess rainfall erosivity both spatially and temporally. During winter months, significant rainfall erosivity is present only in part of the Mediterranean countries. A sudden increase of erosivity occurs in a major part of the European Union in May and the highest values are registered during the summer months. Starting from September, the R-factor has a decreasing trend. The monthly erosivity maps allowed the development of indicators for studying the intra-annual variability of erosivity and the concentration of erosive events. Data are available in ESDAC: 12 monthly R-factor maps, 4 seasonal erosivity maps, Erosivity ratio, Coefficient of Variation, Weighted Density, Month with highest/lowest R-factor.
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N2O emissions from agricultural soils in Europe

This dataset is derived from the integration of the LUCAS soil survey data with the bio-geochemistry process-based model DayCent. The model was run for more than 11,000 LUCAS sampling points under agricultural use, assessing also the model uncertainty. Meta-models based on model outcomes and the Random Forest algorithm were used to upscale the N2O emissions at 1km resolution. ESDAC makes available a) Average nitrous oxides emissions: contains the average (2010-2014 time period) emissions of N2O-N (kg ha-1 yr-1) simulated in soil LUCAS points; b) Nitrous oxides emissions in agricultural soils of the EU: contains the N2O-N emissions (kg ha-1 yr-1) at 1 km2 resolution in the EU, obtained by the meta-model MT1 and MT2.
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Soil erosion in Tanzania – in pictures

The Jali Ardhi, or ‘care for the land’ project, studies the impact of soil erosion on Maasai communities and their grazing lands. Photojournalist Carey Marks captures the changing landscape, its people – and the challenges they face.
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Why You Need More Dirt in Your Life

Soil helps build up our defences against disease and imparts a sense of the sacred—and we are killing it.
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Bricks made of martian soil may be stronger than steel-reinforced concrete

Even The Martian’s Mark Watney didn’t have this trick up his spacesuit sleeve. Materials scientists have now created super sturdy bricks, made of material similar to Martian soil, Newsweek reports. The bricks, which the researchers say are stronger than steel-reinforced concrete, are the latest effort to make building blocks from materials readily available on the Red Planet. Prior attempts required treating martianlike dirt with heat or chemicals, but the new study, published today in Scientific Reports, shows that simple pressure can compact small red bricks held together by iron oxide in the soil. The finding might be too late for Watney, but maybe not for future Mars-bound travellers.
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Lithuanian scientists create innovative technologies for use of organic lakes sediments

Lithuanian scientists have created and patented innovative technologies for the use of organic lake sediments – sapropel – in order to create fertile soil in the desert, and to support recreation of agronomic soil properties in degraded soil. Using these technologies in desert sand, the yield was comparable to that of the Nile delta. The effect of these technologies was tested in Egypt, UAE and Bahrain.
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New Editor’s Choice papers in the European Journals of Soil Science – currently all free to read!

See what Margaret Oliver, Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Soil Science, has selected as her current Editor’s Choice: “This is my latest selection of ‘Editor’s Choice’ papers; I selected them because the subject matter is unusual and of interest to more readers than simply those working in the particular field of research. They cover a range of topics in soil science. Two of the papers are open access, meaning they are easily accessible to readers.”
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Conferences, Meetings and Workshops

Degradation and Revitalisation of Soil and Landscape

Olomouc, Czech Republic, 11-13 September 2017 (9 and 10 September pre-conference tours). Conference theme: Degradation causes and consequences, degradation monitoring and assessment, revitalisation measures.
New deadlines:
Deadline for abstract submission: 29.5.2017
Registration deadline: 29.5.2017.
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New publications

Mires and peatlands of Europe. Status, distribution and conservation

Joosten/Tanneberger/Moen (eds.). Published in 2017 by Schweizerbart Science Publishers, 780 pages, 129 figures, 161 tables, ISBN 978-3-510-65383-6, price hardcover 94.00 €.

This book provides the first comprehensive and up-to-date overview of mires and peatlands in biogeographic Europe. Written by 134 mire specialists, the book describes mire and peatland types, terms, extent, distribution, use, conservation, and restoration, individually for each European country and in an integrated manner for the entire continent. Complemented by a multitude of maps and photographs, the book offers an impressive and colourful journey, full of surprising historical context and fascinating details, while appreciating the core principles and unifying concepts of mire science.
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Multifunctional Land-Use Systems for Managing the Nexus of Environmental Resources

By Zhang, Lulu, Schwärzel, Kai (Eds.), 1st ed. 2017 by Springer, 148 pages, 34 illus., 31 illus. in colour. ISBN 978-3-319-54957-6, price hardcover 86,99 € | £64.99 | $99.00.

This book comprehensively describes the major ecosystem services in dryland environments that are provided by typical land use, including forestland, grassland and farmland, using the Loess Plateau, Northwest China as an example. It offers extensive information on land policy, implementation and scientific evidence, and discusses the restoration of the degraded Loess Plateau environment, which that brings new challenges in the sustainable use of natural resources, in particular soil and water.
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The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are

By Paul Bogard. Published March 21, 2017 by Little Brown and Company. 336 pages. ISBN 316342262 (ISBN-13: 978-0316342261), price USD 17.49.

When a teaspoon of soil contains millions of species, and when we pave over the Earth on a daily basis, what does that mean for our future? What is the risk to our food supply, the planet’s wildlife, the soil on which every life-form depends? How much undeveloped, untrodden ground do we even have left? From New York (where more than 118,000,000 tons of human development rest on top of Manhattan Island) to Mexico City (which sinks inches each year into the Aztec ruins beneath it), Paul Bogard shows us the weight of our cities’ footprints.
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Special issue on digital soil mapping across the world

Geoderma Regional has just published a special issue on digital soil mapping across the world (Vol. 9). The issue edited by Dominique Arrouays and Philippe Lagacherie contains papers from Scotland, Chile, Madagascar, France, Brazil, India, and Belgium. These papers illustrate the advances in digital soil mapping, highlight the complexity of sparse data sets, but produce results using the best available data. They can be used for a wide range of purposes including a call for re-investment in soil mapping as well as the need for new soil data collection.
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Springer Nature groundbreaking collection ‘Change the World’

The paper “Molecular microbiology methods for environmental diagnosis” by soil microbiologists has been nominated by Springer Nature among 180 scientific findings of the year 2016 that could help change the world.
This paper highlights how several molecular techniques can now be used to detect, quantify or characterize a microbial community, population, species, function or functional group in a precise and robust manner. New methods have for the first time made it possible to map the bacterial diversity of soils at a national scale.
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