SOM through the soil profile in a climate-stressed environment

Associate Professor Brian Wilson1

1University of New England, Australia


Associate Professor Brian Wilson completed his PhD in Soil Science at the University of Reading in the UK. He held positions as an academic in the UK and, following a move to Australia in 1999, has worked as a Research Scientist with New South Wales (NSW) State Government and more recently as an academic at University of New England (UNE). His research has focused principally on soil organic matter quantity, distribution and dynamics across a range of land-uses, especially native vegetation systems, in Europe, Australia and the sub-Antarctic, utilising a variety of elemental, stable- and radio-isotope techniques. He leads the Terrestrial Carbon Research Group at UNE which has examined a range of processes and mechanisms of soil organic matter storage and movement in the soil profile in response to land use and management pressures in the climate-stressed, NSW environment. Current work within the group focuses on the addition and stabilisation of carbon through the whole soil profile from plant/root contributions and dissolved organic carbon combined with soil organic matter cycling and change in Australian alpine and island environments. A/Prof Wilson continues a close research collaboration with the NSW State Government focusing on key Statewide research and policy needs relating to soils and the development of strategic research initiatives.

Soil C cycling in a changing world: The role of root-microbe interactions

Franciska de Vries1

1Professor of Earth Surface Science, BBSRC David Phillips Fellow, University of Amsterdam, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, The Netherlands

Soil microbial communities play an important role in ecosystem functioning: they perform important steps in soil nutrient and carbon cycles and feed back to plant performance and community composition. Plants strongly alter the soil environment through root processes and are therefore likely to modify how soil microbial communities, and their functioning, respond to changing environmental conditions. Here, I will present the results from three experiments, ranging from field-based mesocosm, to glasshouse, to growth chamber experiments. Using these case studies, I will highlight different mechanisms through which roots can alter belowground microbial response to changes in plant community composition and drought, and the consequences for ecosystem functioning, including plant growth and community composition.


Franciska de Vries is Professor of Earth Surface Science at the University of Amsterdam. Franciska did her PhD in Wageningen, the Netherlands, and then spent 10 years in the UK at Lancaster University and The University of Manchester, before she returned to her home country for a full professorship at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics in 2019. Her research focusses on the effects of global change on soil organisms and their functioning, and in particular how interactions with plants modify these responses. She is interested in global patterns as well as in disentangling small-scale mechanisms, and uses experimental and observational studies on global and regional scales, field and field-based mesocosm experiments, and pot experiments under controlled conditions. A major aim in her work is to understand the properties that determine ecosystem response to change, and using those for predicting, and managing, future ecosystem functioning. Franciska set up the special interest group Plants-Soils-Ecosystems of the British Ecological Society, and is on the editorial boards of Ecosystems and Journal of Ecology.

The Hydrophobicity Characteristics and IR Spectra of Tropical Peat Soil : Case Study of Land Use Change in Ex Mega Rice Project Kalimantan

Dr Zafrullah Damanik1, Dr.  FENGKY FLORANTE ADJI1, Dr. Nina Yulianti1, Dr. Laura Graham2, Ms Amanda Sinclair3, Dr. Samantha Groover3

1Cimtrop, University Of Palangka Raya, Palangka Raya, Indonesia, 2Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, Palangka Raya, Indonesia, 3RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

The over drainage due big canals, deforestation and land use change in Kalimantan peatland when Mega Rice Project (MRP) starts  caused environmental problems, especially fires and decreased quality of peat soils. The increase of hydrophobicity or irreversible drying is one indicator of the decline in the quality of peat soils. It’s found in degraded and burned peatlands. This study aims to study the effect of land use change on FTIR spectra and its relation to the hydrophobicity of peat soil. Surface soil samples of peat soil were taken from the Mentangai Central Kalimantan region (Block A Ex-MRP Project) with different land uses (secondary forest, burnt, oil palm, and revegetation area), to determine C-organic contents, FTIR spectra and hydrophobicity. The results showed that there were differences in percent of C-aliphatic area and hydrophobicity index between each land use. The parameters of the hydrophobicity index can be used to evaluate the quality of peat soil in relation to land use changes.


Spatial variation of earthworm communities and soil organic carbon in temperate agroforestry

Dr Rémi Cardinael1,2,3, Dr Kevin Hoeffner4, Pr Claire Chenu3, Dr Tiphaine Chevallier2, Camille Béral5, Antoine Dewisme4, Dr Daniel Cluzeau4

1Cirad – UR AIDA, Montpellier, France, 2IRD – UMR Eco&Sols, Montpellier, France, 3AgroParisTech – UMR Ecosys, Thiverval-Grignon, France, 4Univ-Rennes – UMR Ecobio, Rennes, France, 5Agroof, Anduze, France

The aim of this study was to assess how soil organic C (SOC) stocks and earthworm communities were modified in agroforestry systems compared to treeless control plots, and within the agroforestry plots (tree rows vs alleys). We used a network of 13 silvoarable agroforestry sites in France along a North/South gradient. Total earthworm abundance and biomass were significantly higher in the tree rows than in the control plots, but were not modified in the alleys compared to the control plots. Earthworm species richness, Shannon index, and species evenness were significantly higher in the tree rows than in the alleys. Total abundance of epigeic, epi-anecic, strict anecic and endogeic was higher in the tree rows. Surprisingly, earthworm individual weight was significantly lower in the tree rows than in the alleys and in the control plots. SOC stocks were significantly higher in the tree rows compared to the control plots across all sites. Despite higher SOC stocks in the tree rows, the amount of available C per earthworm individual was lower compared to the control. The absence of disturbance (no tillage, no fertilizers, no pesticides) in the tree rows rather than increased SOC stocks therefore seems to be the main factor explaining the increased total abundance, biomass, and diversity of earthworms. The observed differences in earthworm communities between tree rows and alleys may lead to modified and spatially structured SOC dynamics within agroforestry plots.


Professor of Soil Science at AgroParisTech

Organic carbon decomposition rates with depth under an agroforestry system in a calcareous soil

Dr Rémi Cardinael1,2,3, Dr Tiphaine Chevallier2, Dr Bertrand Guenet4, Dr Cyril Girardin5, MSc Thomas Cozzi3, Valérie Pouteau5, Dr Claire Chenu3

1Cirad – UR AIDA, Montpellier, France, 2IRD – UMR Eco&Sols, Montpellier, France, 3AgroParisTech – UMR Ecosys, Thiverval-Grignon, France, 4CNRS – LSCE, Gif-sur-Yvette, France, 5INRA – UMR Ecosys, Thiverval-Grignon, France

Soil inorganic carbon (SIC) in the form of carbonates is found in a large part of soils, especially in arid and semi-arid environments. Despite their important distribution at the global scale, the organic carbon dynamic has been poorly investigated in these soils due to the complexity of measurement and of the processes involved. It requires the removal of carbonates by acid dissolution or the use of natural isotopes to discriminate the carbon originating from the soil organic carbon (SOC) than the one from the carbonates. We incubated soil samples, coming from an 18-year-old agroforestry system (both tree row and alley) and an adjacent agricultural plot established in the South of France, during 44 days. Soil samples were taken at four different depths: 0-10, 10-30, 70-100 and 160-180 cm. Total CO2 emissions, the isotopic composition (δ13C, ‰) of the CO2 and microbial biomass were measured. The contribution of SIC-derived CO2 represented about 20% in the topsoil and 60% in the subsoil of the total soil CO2 emissions. The SOC-derived CO2, or heterotrophic soil respiration, was higher in the topsoil, but the decomposition rates (day-1) remained stable with depth, suggesting that only the size of the labile carbon pool was modified with depth. Subsoil organic carbon seems to be as prone to decomposition as surface organic carbon. No difference in CO2 emissions was found between the agroforestry and the control plot, except in the tree row at 0-10 cm where the carbon content and microbial biomass were higher, but the decomposition remained lower. Our results suggest that the measurement of soil respiration in calcareous soils could be overestimated if the isotopic signature of the CO2 is not taken into account. It also advocates more in-depth studies on dissolution-precipitation processes and their impact on CO2 emissions in these soils.


Professor of Soil Science at AgroParisTech

Organomineral interactions: Zoom at nanoscale using EXAFS and MET-EELS

Isabelle BASILE-DOELSCH1,2*, Nithavong CAM1, Clément LEVARD1, Emmanuel DOELSCH2, Jérôme ROSE1

1Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, IRD, INRA, Coll France, CEREGE, Aix-en-Provence, France; 2CSIRO, Gate 4, Waite Road, Urrbrae SA 5064, Australia; 3CIRAD, UPR Recyclage et risque, F-34398 Montpellier, France

Organo-mineral interactions are recognized as a key factor in stabilizing organic matter (OM) in soils and short-range order mineral phases are increasingly considered as key mineral phases in the control of OM dynamics (Rasmussen et al., 2018). Coprecipitation has been recently proposed as one of the main mechanisms involved. A recent conceptual model proposes that coprecipitates form continuously upon soil mineral weathering in contact with organic compounds of the soil solution (Basile-Doelsch et al., 2015). For silicate minerals, this process imply that Si may also take part in the structure of coprecipitates. However, only Fe and Al coprecipitates have been considered as coprecipitating cations in the literature. Experimental work precipitated nanophases from a solution containing ionic Fe, Al, Si, Mg and K, obtained from a biotite weathered leachate. TEM and Fe K-edge EXAFS showed that they were structured mainly by small oligomers of Fe, together with Si and Al (Tamrat et al., 2018). By adding an organic ligand (DOPA, initial M:C≈1), coprecipitates were structured by a loose and irregular 3D network of small oligmers of Fe, Si and Al forming a highly reactive open-structured mineral skeleton on which OM was bond. A conceptual model of the nanometer-scale structure, animated in 3D, has been proposed (Tamrat et al., 2019) and named “nanoCLICs” for “Nanosized Coprecipitates of inorganic oLIgomers with organiCs”. It differs significantly from the previous models presented for ferrihydrite and amorphous Al(OH)3 coprecipitates (Kleber et al., 2015). We will present the main results that lead to the proposition of the nanoCLICs fine structure model, as well as ongoing imaging of nanoCLICS at nanometer scale by TEM, TEM-EELS and STXM.


Dr I. Basile-Doelsch. MSc in Geology (ENSG, Nancy, France), PhD in Geochemistry for paleoclimatic reconstructions (Vostok ice core, Antarctica), Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches in geochemistry of soils and weathering systems in the critical zone. She is specialized in organomineral interactions in soils. She has been an Aix-Marseille University lecturer since 1998 (France), and a junior member of the prestigious “Institut Universitaire de France” from 2011 to April 2015. As of May 2015, she became a Director of Research at the French INRA institute(CEREGE). She recently spent one year as a visiting scientist in Jeff’s Baldock group at CSIRO Adelaide. or

Linking microscale processes with the macro world: Microbes & moisture through the soil profile

Dr Joshua Schimel

Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at UC Santa Barbara

Microbes control planet Earth. Yet, integrating microbial information into large scale-perspectives and models remains difficult. Classical biogeochemical models assume that microbes are in equilibrium with their environment, an assumption that is increasingly false as climate change increases extremes. Currently, at least 1/3 Earth’s land experiences regular drought, and climate models suggest this will increase. Important dry-soil phenomena remain unexplained, such as the “Birch Effect”—the pulse of respiration on rewetting a dry soil. Important and surprising processes occur during the dry season. For example, during the summer in California grasslands, soils are dry and plants are dead, but microbial biomass increases, even though activity is limited. Additionally, pools of bioavailable C increase, which primes the system to produce a pulse of activity following rewetting. These changes appear to result from a combination of microbial drought survival physiology and disconnections in soil water films that limit substrate diffusion. A focus of the talk will be about how we bridge the scales from the micro- to the ecosystem. Current dominant carbon cycling models do a poor job of capturing drought and rewetting dynamics—how can we incorporate the dry-soil and pulse processes into large-scale models of soil carbon processes?


Dr. Joshua Schimel is a Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at UC Santa Barbara. His research has focused on the intersection of microbial ecology and biogeochemistry, with emphases on N-dynamics in Arctic soils, and on the role of drought on soil organic matter dynamics, focusing on Mediterranean-climate ecosystems in California. This work has emphasized the linkages among soil mineralogy, organic matter chemistry, and soil microbial dynamics to understand how the physical, chemical, and biological components of soil interact. He is an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, a Fellow in the Ecological Society of America and is a Chief Editor for Soil Biology & Biochemistry.

Indigenous Perspectives on SOM – New Zealand

Robert McGowan

Amo Aratu (Senior Technical Specialist), Te Papa Atawhai (New Zealand Department of Conservation)

On March 20th 2017 the New Zealand parliament passed the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill which established the Whanganui River as a legal “person” with all of the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of the same. The Act endorses and illustrates how Māori perceive their relationship to the natural world. The passing of the Act challenged the River people to restore their ancestral river to good health. Changes in land use beginning in the later part of the 19th century had seen soil fertility decline, water quality deteriorate and the soils that sustained life in its catchment increasingly washed out to sea. These impacts profoundly changed the lifestyles of the people that belonged to it.  Describing the issues facing the River Iwi (tribes) and their response to them will help illustrate traditional understandings relating to the River, the Whenua (the land) and the life sustain capacity of the soil. It also serves to demonstrate the relevance of traditional knowledge to addressing the current ecological crisis.

This presentation will focus on key concepts from Māori understandings of the natural world that relate to the primary themes of this conference and suggest how they can contribute toward deepening and broadening our knowledge of soils and what needs to be done to sustain them. In particular the concept of “Mauri” will be explored and how that relates to the capacity of soils to support the life that belongs there. Māori and many traditional peoples regard the whole landscape as essentially interdependent and that the wellness of any part of it, be it soils, vegetation, water quality, etc., can only be understood within the context of the whole network of connections that sustain life. The challenge for researchers, from an indigenous perspective, is to be mindful of the “whole” while focusing on the areas of their particular expertise.


Rob McGowan is an Amo Aratu (Senior Technical Specialist) for the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) and a key advisor for a Government programme that administers funding for the protection of indigenous ecosystems on Māori land. His work has a strong focus on building bridges between Western Science and Matauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge). In 2018 Rob was awarded the Loder Cup for outstanding work in incorporating Matauranga Māori into conservation management. Rob is one of the foremost authorities on rongoā Māori (traditional Māori medicine) and is well respected nationally for his work with and for the restoration of rongoā Māori practice in New Zealand. He has been involved for more than 20 years in teaching, researching and assisting Māori to re-engage in traditional uses of NZ native plants, particularly for medicine (rongoā Māori).  Rob is a regular presenter on Māori Television’s “Kiwi Maara & Maara Kai programs sharing his vast knowledge on rongoā Māori with the New Zealand public.  He is author of “Rongoā Māori – a practical guide to traditional Māori Medicine” (2009).

Transformation of corn stalk residue to humus like substances during solid state fermentation with Trichoderma reesei

Prof. Sen Dou1, Lili Wang2, Lobo Li1, Xuyang Shi3, Xintong Liu3, Xiaodong Ren3

1College of Resource and Environmental Science, Jilin Agricultural University, Changchun, China, 2School of Life Science, Anhui University, Hefei, China, 3School of Life Science, Jilin University, Changchun, China

Cellulase production from straw waste by Trichoderma reesei has been widely applied, yet the conversion of fermentation residues into humic substances is less reported. The objectives of this study are to evaluate the impacts of Trichoderma reesei on the degradation of corn stalk residue under solid-state fermentation from quantitative and structural aspects. The results show that the highest decomposition rate of corn stalk and the highest activity of cellulase, xylanase and β-glucosidase were got at the 4th day. The cumulative degradation rate was 40.78% after 8 days fermentation. Humus like substance including humic acid-like (HAL), fulvic acid-like (FAL) and humin-like material (HML), is a major transformation product of corn stalk residues. FAL and HML significantly decreased during fermentation, whereas HAL and PQ value (the ratio of HAL / [HAL + FAL]) appeared to be increased. Moreover, HAL degrees of condensation, oxidation, aromatization as well as HAL thermal stability were all enhanced. The data in this study suggest that the fermentation of corn stalk amended with Trichoderma reesei is not only beneficial to the degradation of stalks, but also promotes the transformation of corn stalk to humus, which provide available use of Trichoderma reesei in agricultural soil amelioration.

Acknowledgements This work was financially supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant No. 2016YFD0200304)


Prof of College of Resource and Environmental Science, Jilin Agricultural University.

Soils with Smart Carbon

Prof. Genxing Pan1

1Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China

Enhancement of carbon storage in global soils has been urged as per the “C 4 per mil Initiative”, launched following “the Paris Agreement” for climate change mitigation. However, what kind of carbon should be increased or how the increased carbon could serve soil fertility and ecosystem functioning while mitigate climate change, has been not yet well understood. Global agricultural soils have been depleted organic carbon and therefore have a big potential to feed carbon. Any forms of organic carbon ultimately derived from biomass could help to build up soil C storage but their effects on carbon cycling and food production are widely variable. While to captured or stabilize C in soil, we need carbon to restore soil fertility and soil health and to promote plant growth and food quality, the “Smart C” in agriculture. Such carbon should have stable structure, high reactivity and bioactivity (for example, plant growth/metabolism promotion). Biochar, as an example, is engineered carbon from crop straw and functions in improving soil aggregation/structure, root growth and plant development, and in stabilizing potentially toxic metals, organic pollutants and even pathogenic microbes. The co-benefits to food production, soil/water conservation and environment protection should be assessed and accounted for in the fight against climate change. The characterization, processing and production, and application of smart carbon in agriculture deserve urgent international collaboration, particularly under the framework of “C 4 per mil” action.


Dr Genxing Pan is  a science leader of soil science in Nanjing Agricultural University. He has been devoted his main career to science and technology of soil carbon enhancement in agricultural, particularly of agrochar, in boosting soil C stock and crop productivity for climate change and food


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