Update: 21.11.2017

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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.

in memoriam - Carlos C. Cerri (1946-2017)

Dr. Cerri in a central region in Brazil

The IUSS Secretariat was sad to learn that our distinguished colleague – and our friend – Carlos Clemente Cerri passed away on 22 April 2017 at the age of 71. Latin America has lost one of its most famous soil scientists. Carlos Cerri was born on 12 November 1946. He graduated as agronomist in 1971. He took his master degree in 1974 and his PhD in 1979 in soil science.

For many years, he was a full professor at the “Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura” (CENA) of the São Paulo University (USP, Brazil), where he taught graduate students and performed research on soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation in tropical conditions. He published or co-published about 260 scientific articles and more than 100 in prestigious international journals, 41 book chapters and 6 books. He supervised more than 40 master and PhD students from Brazil and abroad.

Dr. Cerri´s initial scientific career focused on soil organic matter dynamics, in particular he worked on humus characterization, under different natural ecosystems and agricultural land uses in Brazil. In 1985, in cooperation with Christian Feller’s ORSTOM lab in Martinique, he published the method to identify the origin of soil carbon remaining from natural vegetation and introduced by crop residues, using the 13C/12C isotopic technique. This method is still being used in soil science research in a variety of land uses throughout the world.

After a sabbatical time (around 1980) at the Jenkinson’s lab in Rothamstead, he was one of the pioneers to estimate soil microbial biomass activities under native and cultivated soils in Latin America.
The methods he developed with regard to humus characterization, the use of isotopes as well as the measurement of soil microbial biomass were transferred by Dr. Cerri not only to other institutes in Brazil but also to other countries in South America.

Dr. Cerri and his family took a sabbatical leave at the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at the Ohio State University in 1998-99 and developed a strong cooperation with Prof. Rattan Lal. Together, Dr. Cerri and Prof. Lal organized a conference at Piracicaba in 2005, and pulbished a book entitled “Carbon sequestration in soils of Latin America”.

Dr. Cerri´s last research areas of interest were related to the impacts of agricultural expansion on soil degradation and greenhouse gas emissions. He was the coordinator of a large project on the mentioned subject, which was carried out in the Brazilian Amazon. This project integrated environmental techniques, such as the characterization of soil properties, Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing, geostatistics, and modeling approaches, with the human dimension.

He took part in various national and international committees and boards, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Program (TSBF), member of French Academy of Agriculture, “Chevalier dans l´Ordre de Palmes Académiques” of France and Commend of the Ordem Nacional de Mérito Científico-Brazilian President Decree. He received numerous Brazilian and international awards. In 2007, Carlos was associated to the Nobel Peace Prize given to IPCC and Al Gore.
He was director of CENA between 1991-1997 and coordinator of 51 national and international scientific projects in agriculture and environmental sciences, including grants from the European Union (EU), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Global Environment Facility (GEF), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Inter American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and national funding agencies such as Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP), Coordenação de Aperfeicamento de Pessoal de Nivel Superior (CAPES), Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnologico (CNPq).

Since 1988 he has been coordinating bilateral cooperation with ORSTOM, presently known as Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), from which he hosted more than 20 French researchers. Other official collaborations with the Ecosystem Center of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL, USA), Ohio State University (OSU, USA), Colorado State University (CSU, USA) and Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC, Spain) were also coordinated by Dr. Cerri. In addition, collaborations with researchers from India, Kenya, Jordan, the Netherlands, USA and England were made possible through a project called “Assessment of soil organic carbon stocks and change at national scale”.

In addition to being a remarkable scientist, Carlos Cerri was a fantastic friend with great human qualities and a deep sense of empathy for people. Christian Feller met him the first time in 1980 at the French Centre for Atomic Energy (CEA, Cadarache, France) and Martial Bernoux in 1992 during his civil service, which he did at Cerri’s lab. Both scientists immediately struck up a friendship with Carlos. Both worked at Cerri’s lab and lived in Piracicaba for many years (and great years they were) and continued to visit him often, after going back to France. And he, in turn, visited them many times in France. Christian Feller paid a last visit to Carlos and his family on 29 November 2016, when the latter was already seriously ill.

Carlos is survived by his beloved wife, Ana, his two sons Ado and Gui, also agronomists, and his four grandchildren.
He will be very much missed for a long time to come by his family and by all who knew him or were touched by his work and friendship.

By Christian FELLER (IRD, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, France) and Martial BERNOUX (IRD and FAO, Italy)