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Soil Processes and Functions in Critical Zone Observatories: Hypotheses and Experimental Design

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This article in VZJ

  1. Vol. 10 No. 3, p. 974-987
    Received: Nov 11, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): s.a.banwart@sheffield.ac.uk
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  1. Steven Banwart *a,
  2. Stefano M. Bernasconib,
  3. Jaap Bloemc,
  4. Winfried Blumd,
  5. Miguel Brandaoe,
  6. Susan Brantleyf,
  7. Francois Chabauxg,
  8. Christopher Duffyf,
  9. Pavel Krami,
  10. Georg Laird,
  11. Lars Lundinh,
  12. Nikolaos Nikolaidisj,
  13. Martin Novaki,
  14. Panos Panagose,
  15. Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottirk,
  16. Brian Reynoldsl,
  17. Svetla Roussevam,
  18. Peter de Ruiternc,
  19. Pauline van Gaansnc,
  20. Willem van Riemsdijkm,
  21. Tim Whitef and
  22. Bin Zhango
  1. a Kroto Research Institute, Univ. of Sheffield, North Campus, Broad Lane, Sheffield, S3 7HQ, UK
    b Geological Institute, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
    c Wageningen Univ., Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
    d Institute of Soil Research, Univ. of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), 1190 Vienna, Austria
    e Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre–European Commission, Via Enrico Fermi 2749, I-21027 Ispra, Italy
    f Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA 16802
    g Lab. of Hydrology and Geochemistry of Strasbourg (LHyGeS), Univ. of Strasbourg, 67084 Strasbourg cedex, France
    i Czech Geological Survey, 118 21 Prague 1, Czech Republic
    h Dep. of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish Univ. of Agricultural Sciences, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
    j Dep. of Environmental Engineering, Technical Univ. of Crete, Polytechnioupolis, Crete, Greece
    k School of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Univ. of Iceland, 107 Reykjavík, Iceland
    l Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Environment Centre Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, UK
    m Soil Erosion Dep,, Institute of Soil Science, Sofia 1080, Bulgaria
    n Deltares, P.O. Box 85467, 3508 AL Utrecht, the Netherlands; and
    o Dep. of Soil Science, Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China


European Union policy on soil threats and soil protection has prioritized new research to address global soil threats. This research draws on the methodology of Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) to focus a critical mass of international, multidisciplinary expertise at specific field sites. These CZOs were selected as part of an experimental design to study soil processes and ecosystem function along a hypothesized soil life cycle—from incipient soil formation where new parent material is being deposited, to highly degraded soils that have experienced millennia of intensive land use. Further CZOs have been selected to broaden the range of soil environments and data sets to test soil process models that represent the stages of the soil life cycle. The scientific methodology for this research focuses on the central role of soil structure and soil aggregate formation and stability in soil processes. Research methods include detailed analysis and mathematical modeling of soil properties related to aggregate formation and their relation to key processes of reactive transport, nutrient transformation, and C and food web dynamics in soil ecosystems. Within this program of research, quantification of soil processes across an international network of CZOs is focused on understanding soil ecosystem services including their quantitative monetary valuation within the soil life cycle. Further experimental design at the global scale is enabled by this type of international CZO network. One example is a proposed experiment to study soil ecosystem services along planetary-scale environmental gradients. This would allow scientists to gain insight into the responses of soil processes to increasing human pressures on Earth's critical zone that arise through rapidly changing land use and climate.

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