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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.

Paleopedology activities at the INQUA congress in Australia 2007

The Paleopedology commission participated in the XVII INQUA Congress held at Cairns, Australia, 28 July – 3 August 2007.

The commission collaborated in the preparation of three oral and as many poster sessions:

‘Pedogenic Analysis of Aeolian Deposits’, Convenors: Martin Iriondo and Birgit Terhorst.
“Pedogenic carbonate as palaeoenvironmental proxy”, Convenors: Konstantin Pustovoytov and Marie-Agnes Courty
“Timescales of soil formation”, Convenors: Daniela Sauer and Edoardo Costantini

All sessions had a wide participation and a good attendance. Several papers related to Paleopedology were also presented in three other sessions: ‘Aeolian dust and environmental change’, ‘Quaternary circum alpine stratigraphy’, and ‘Dynamics of terrestrial systems: geology, biogeochemistry, climate’. All abstracts of the Congress have been published in a special edition of Quaternary International (volume 167-168 Supplement) and are available on line.

Business meeting

The Paleopedology business meeting was held on the 30th of July.

Greg Botha, Marie-Agnes Courty, Geoff Humphreys, Martin Iriondo, Ju Yong Kim, Alexander Makeev, Ahmet Mermut, Konstantin Pustovoytov, Paul Sanborn, Daniela Sauer, Birgit Terhorst, Christoph Zielhofer

Missions of the Paleopedology Commission

The president, Edoardo Costantini, underlined the missions of the Paleopedology Commission, which are:

Coordination: Promoting events, avoiding overlapping, supporting interdisciplinary meetings, keeping relationships between Soil Sciences and Earth Sciences

Dissemination: Proceedings of the meetings, newsletter, mailing list, web site.

Commission overview. The Paleopedology Commission was formed at the 1965 INQUA Congress, and since 1968 has been affiliated to the Soil Genesis, Classification and Cartography Commission of the International Society of Soil Science (ISSS) and since 1990 to the Stratigraphy Commission of the International Union of Geological Sciences. These links reflect the increasingly multidisciplinary activity of the Commission’s work in relation to the genesis and Quaternary history of non-buried soils and the recognition and interpretation of pre-Quaternary paleosols. Unfortunately, during the XVII INQUA Congress in Reno it was decided to delete Paleopedology Commission and to include it as a sub-commission with INQUA Commission on terrestrial processes (TERPRO). In 2006 Paleopedology working group was transformed into Paleopedology Commission during the XVIII IUSS Congress in Philadelphia. Through it’s history, the Commission unites more than 350 corresponding members spread among these three international unions. Some attend the Congresses of all three, which leaves only one year in four available for major Inter-Congress symposia of the Commission. However, many also attend Inter-Congress meetings organized jointly with other INQUA or ISSS Commissions.

The main activities of the Paleopedology Commission of INQUA falls into the following categories:

Meetings. Since 1965 the Commission organized 8 international meetings and field workshops on paleopedology. Besides, the Commission is actively participating in IUSS and INQUA international congresses, conducting 2-4 thematic Symposia during these events. Some Symposia are organized together with INQUA Loess and Tephrochronology commissions, ensuring interdisciplinary activities. The Commission is also organizing paleopedology sessions during Eurosoil and European Geosciences Union (EGU) Congresses and meetings of soil micromorphology and geoarchaeology groups.

Newsletters. The Commission have produced 20 issues of the Paleopedology Newsletter, being distributed among Commission members, since 2003 in electronic format.

Publications. Papers, presented at paleopedology meetings have been published in international scientific journals, such as thematic issues of Quaternary International, Geoderma, Catena and others.

Internet. Since 1995 the Commission is maintaining its web site, that include all the information about Commission activities: Forthcoming meetings and past meetings reports, an archive of paleopedology newsletters, announcements, web forum and mailing list, member database, related links.

NQUA projects. Since 1995, when INQUA Counsel decided to support project-based activities the Commission is trying to apply for INQUA projects. So far, three applications were successful. INQUA also supported a project of Paleopedology Commission, funded by ECSU.

The main result of Commission activities is that it is capable to keep together a group of more then 350 hundred inter-disciplinary scientists and to provide orientation for young scholars in the field of paleopedology. It is quite obvious, that Commission activities are by far much wider then project-based or focus areas activities.

  • The president also summarized the main activities carried out by the Paleopedology group in the last four years, since the last INQUA conference of Reno, in 2003. INQUA, Reno, 2003:
  • the proceedings of the symposia on Paleopedology held in the past INQUA conference of Reno, 2003 have been published in the special volume of Quaternary International 162-163, editors Carolyn Olson, Bruce Harrison;
  • the VII international symposium & field workshop on paleopedology ‘Paleosols: memory of ancient landscapes and living bodies of present ecosystems’ was held in Florence, Italy, 7-11 June 2004, the proceedings were published in a special volume of Quaternary International 156-157, editors Peter Jacobs, Edoardo Costantini;
  • Paleopedology sessions were organized in the conference ‘Global Soil Change’, Mexico city, 2005, and the proceedings were published on
  • Revista Mexicana de Geologia, v. 24, 2, 2007, editors Christina Siebe and Daniel Richter
  • Catena (in press), editors Elisabeth Solleiro, Daniel Richter
  • At the 18th World Congress of Soil Science held in Philadelphia, between 9th to 15th of July 2006, two oral sessions, two poster sessions and a theatre session were specifically dedicated to Paleopedology. The themes were: ‘Imprint of paleoenvironmental change on paleosols’, and ‘Amazonian dark earth soils (Terra Preta and Terra Preta Nova)’, which was a tribute to Wim Sombroek, The contribute of paleopedology was also important for other some sessions, namely: ‘Arid soils: genesis, geomorphology and geoarcheology’, ‘Soils on limestone: their properties, genesis and role in the human societies’, ‘Soil system behaviour in time’ and ‘Interdependency of soils and soilscapes’. The proceedings are in preparation, to be published on ‘Journal of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition’, editor Reinhold Jahn.

Proceedings of the INQUA 2007 Conference

The assembly discussed and approved the idea of collecting all contributions related to Paleopedology presented in the different sessions of INQUA 2007 in a thematic volume of Quaternary International. Geoff Humphreys and Edoardo Costantini agreed to be editors, with the option that other editors could be added. All session conveners will be included in the conception of the volume, which shall report the advances of the different branches of Paleopedology.

Upcoming meetings

The next meeting will be held in Chennai (Madras), India, from 10 January to 14 January 2008. It will be organized by Dr. Hema Achyuthan, Department of Geology, Anna University, Chennai. The title of the International Conference and Field Workshop on Paleopedology in Chennai is: Paleosols, geomorphic evolution of landscape and Paleoclimate change. Further information are available on the web at:

The next Eurosoil congress will be held in 2008 in Vienna. Sessions related to paleopedology will be:

S2 – Soils and Climate Change, convenors: Natasa Vidic and Viliam Pichler

S25 – Memory Function of Recent and Paleosols, convenors: Gyorgy and Adrijan Kosir

S29 – Time scales of pedogenic processes for predicting soil changes in time, convenors:
Victor Targulian and Attila Barczi

S30 -Micromorphological and mineralogical features (evidence) of soil environmental change, convenors: Karl Stahr and Maria Gerassimova

In the year 2009 the members of the group will meet in the USA, possibly in Nebraska.
The main organizer will be Peter Jacobs, University of Whitewater, Wisconsin. In the year 2010 there will be the congress of the IUSS at Brisbane, Australia. The society has urged the Commission to provide themes for the possible sessions. The proposals are the following:

Impact of aeolian sediments on pedogenic processes and soil morphology

This session proposes to investigate how additions of even modest increments of aeolian sediment (such as loess or volcanic ash) to underlying sediments or existing soils has influenced the pedogenic processes that shaped the morphology and characteristics of the modern soil cover or changed the existing soil beneath. For example, relative to underlying glacial sediments most fine-grained aeolian sediments have low bulk density, weatherable minerals and/or high-charge clays, and readily dispersable clays. Aeolian sediments can thus influence soil ecosystem properties such as moisture holding capacity, rooting depth, and carbon storage, and can provide clay or soluble salts for migration to subsoil horizons, all of which impact soil morphological expression.

Genesis and functions of soils and paleosols in karst environments

Soils of karstic landscapes, being contrastingly different from the central images of zonal soil formation, are a product of interaction of in situ pedogenesis, karst erosion and addition of allochtonous silicate materials. This interaction can result in formation of diverse soil bodies – from thick red soils with high productivity to shallow Leptosols with rock outcrops, not suitable for agricultural use. We invite contributions dealing with the factors and mechanisms controlling the realization of different models of karstic soil development under different sets of environmental conditions.

Soil cover of karst landscapes produce specific reactions on environmental change, contemporary and past, natural and anthropogenic, and develops specific paleosol and pedosediment records, related to surface and subsurface karst geoforms. Papers dealing with relict soil bodies and features in karstic landscapes, including their correlation with other karstic records (speleothems) and existing datasets on regional and global environmental change, are welcome.

This will be a joint session of the commissions Soil Genesis and Paleopedology.

Timescales of pedogenic processes

Identification of the nature of pedogenic processes and quantification of their rates may enable us to estimate the age of land surfaces and – in combination with other proxies – to reconstruct landscape history. Examples are the distinction of marine or fluvial terraces and the establishment of chronologies of sand dune formation or glacier retreats, based on different degrees of soil development. The knowledge about how much time is required to form a certain soil in a certain environment is also essential for deciphering correctly the landscape and climate history written in paleosols and paleosol/loess- or paleosol/ash-sequences. An estimation of the timespan required for formation of a certain soil in a specific environment is also needed to evaluate the tolerable soil erosion rate for an environment. For these reasons, it is important to work continuously on increasing our understanding of pedogenic processes, their rates, and the ways in which they are influenced by soil forming factors.

The chair of Division 1, Prof. Ahmet Mermut, points out that each commission may have two sessions plus (intercommissional and interdivisional) joint sessions on the IUSS congress 2010.

Officer nominations

The IUSS urged the commission to nominate candidates for the next term officer positions. The Commission decided to provide the names of Daniela Sauer and Sergey Sedov for the positions of president and vice president. Other nominations from the National societies and single IUSS members are possible.

Handbook of Pedology

Prof. Ahmet Mermut presented his initiative about the Handbook of Pedology, which will illustrate the state of the art regarding all the themes of interest of the first Division, Soil in space and time, chaired by Prof. Mermut. The Paleopedology group supports the initiative and is in the process of elaborating a series of paragraphs dealing with the different branches of Paleopedology, in particular:

  • Dating of Paleosols
  • Methods of field and laboratory study
  • Paleosols and Archaeology
  • Paleoseismic activity and Paleopedology
  • Pedostratigraphy and mapping
  • Rates of soil forming processes
  • Paleosols and Geomorphology
  • Loess-paleosol-sequences in northern America
  • Loess-paleosol-sequences in Europe
  • Loess-paleosol-sequences in Asia
  • Loess-paleosol-sequences in the southern hemisphere

Prof. Mermut expressed his wish to collect personally the different contributions and asked the president of the Paleopedology Commission to send him the email addresses of the people who manifested their interest and availability in being the reference authors of the above mentioned paragraphs.

Future projects

The assembly discussed the possibilities offered by the EU 7FP, COST action, as well as INQUA to apply for projects to coordinate and enhance collaboration among the members of the group. Edoardo Costantini, Alexander Makeev, Konstantin Pustovoytov and Daniela Sauer will prepare a first draft for a COST action. Deadline of submission of a preliminary proposal is the 30th September 2007. The topic, suggested by Geoff Humphreys and accepted by the assembly, is related to soil changes in changing climate.

Meeting of the Terrestrial Processes Commission

On the 1st of August, the Terrestrial Processes of INQUA had its meeting. During the meeting, it was communicated to the attendance that the structure of the TERPRO Commission has been reformulated, closing all subcommissions and creating focus areas, which correspond to the working groups financed by INQUA. The president of the TERPRO Commission solicited all members to submit project proposals for the next 2007-2011 term. As no projects related to Paleopedology were financed by INQUA, no focus areas on Paleopedology were foreseen. The same was true for the Loess subcommission, among others.

The members of the Paleopedology subcommission who were present at INQUA meeting, as well as others paleopedologists involved in the activities of INQUA who were contacted afterwards, decided to communicate to the president of the TERPRO Commission that they are in favor of the maintenance of the Paleopedology subcommission. In their opinion, the disciplinary activities can not be reduced to the projects supported by INQUA. In addition, the maintenance of the subcommission will help the prosecutions of the research about Paleopedology inside Quaternary Sciences as well as the collaboration with Soil Sciences.

INQUA Post Conference Fieldtrip

Three members of the Paleopedology commission, Edoardo Costantini, Paul Sanburn and Daniela Sauer, took part in a post conference field trip led by the new INQUA president Allan Chivas. The journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs passed from well-watered areas in the South through semi-arid and arid zones receiving little more than 100 mm MAP. In the South, we visited calcretes formed on norite (gabbro) and granite, which is possible due to marine aerosols being the Ca source for calcrete development. The trip then went on along the Flinders Range to the North. On day 3, we visited a remarkable exposure of wetland deposits in Brachina Gorge, including a well developed paleosol (Calcic Stagnic Vertisol). The Ochre Cliffs N of Lyndhurst, an exposure of saprolite of various colors, is used by Aboriginal people for obtaining colors for painting. W of Marree we visited a Gypsisol and our first gibber plain. Gibber plains are eroded surfaces covered by gravel of silcrete and ferricrete fragments, which were widespread along our further way. Other highlights of the tour included breakaways, a view on Lake Eyre South, mound springs of the Great Artesian Basin, sand dunes. In Coober Pedy, we stayed overnight in an underground hotel with the walls of our rooms consisting of saprolite. Other main attractions were Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). During the seven days of the excursion we saw a lot of the great and impressive landscape of Southern and Central Australia and learned much about landscape history, geological, hydrological, geomorphological and pedogenic processes in this very special, old landscape.

Daniela Sauer and Edoardo A.C. Costantini