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Hydropedology and the societal challenge of realizing the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals

 

Hydropedology explores the potential of combining the expertise of soil physicists and pedologists. Soil physics describes physical processes in the soil, with particular attention for water movement, and pedology describes undisturbed soil types in the field, their properties and spatial distribution. Historically, these two fields have separately developed with different groups of scientists and publications but a concerted effort in  recent times to bring them together in Hydropedology is likely to help solving a range of problems in hydrology, climatology, ecology and agriculture to name a few areas of research.

The United Nations has recently defined seventeen broad Sustainable Development Goals  that, amongst others, cover food production, water availability, climate change and biodiversity preservation. Soils play a key role when trying to achieve these goals.

Modeling soil water movement supporting agro-ecological processes has been quite successful applying the Richards equation. But problems occur when modeling water movement in well-structured organic or clayey soils with large pores in a fine-grained matrix. This paper presents examples where pedological soil descriptions can define such complex flow systems, allowing improved measurement of soil physical data and modeling, thereby illustrating the potential of the hydropedological approach. In addition, soil maps prepared with digital techniques can assist in extrapolating data obtained at points to areas of land.  However, the paper points out that heterogeneous soil conditions, as mentioned above should be considered when defining soil databases, while field measurements are essential to validate soil physical models.

Read the full open access article in Vadose Zone Journal