On the Need to Establish an International Soil Modeling Consortium

Friday, 19 December 2014
Harry Vereecken, Forschungszentrum Julich GmbH, Julich, Germany, Jan Vanderborght, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich, Germany and Andrea Schnepf, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Agrosphere (IBG 3), Jülich, Germany
Soil is one of the most critical life-supporting compartments of the Biosphere. Soil provides numerous ecosystem services such as a habitat for biodiversity, water and nutrients, as well as producing food, feed, fiber and energy. To feed the rapidly growing world population in 2050, agricultural food production must be doubled using the same land resources footprint. At the same time, soil resources are threatened due to improper management and climate change. Despite the many important functions of soil, many fundamental knowledge gaps remain, regarding the role of soil biota and biodiversity on ecosystem services, the structure and dynamics of soil communities, the interplay between hydrologic and biotic processes, the quantification of soil biogeochemical processes and soil structural processes, the resilience and recovery of soils from stress, as well as the prediction of soil development and the evolution of soils in the landscape, to name a few. Soil models have long played an important role in quantifying and predicting soil processes and related ecosystem services. However, a new generation of soil models based on a whole systems approach comprising all physical, mechanical, chemical and biological processes is now required to address these critical knowledge gaps and thus contribute to the preservation of ecosystem services, improve our understanding of climate-change–feedback processes, bridge basic soil science research and management, and facilitate the communication between science and society. To meet these challenges an international community effort is required, similar to initiatives in systems biology, hydrology, and climate and crop research. Our consortium will bring together modelers and experimental soil scientists at the forefront of new technologies and approaches to characterize soils. By addressing these aims, the consortium will contribute to improve the role of soil modeling as a knowledge dissemination instrument in addressing key global issues and stimulate the development of translational research activities. This presentation will provide a compelling case for this much-needed effort, with a focus on tangible benefits to the scientific and food security communities.