Update: 25.09.2017

Soil is one of the most complicated biological materials on our planet.

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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.

IUSS Alert 144 (June 2017)


IUSS News

IUSS Bulletin 130 about to go online

The most recent IUSS publication is about to go online, featuring a variety of articles from an activity report of the IUSS Secretariat, the Minutes of the IUSS Council meetings which took place during the IUSS Inter-Congress Meeting in Rio de Janeiro, activities and recent achievements during the International Decade of Soils (2015-2024), conference and meeting reports and obituaries of outstanding soil scientists.

Should you wish to submit contributions for the next Bulletin, which will be published in December 2017, or place paid advertisements, please contact the IUSS Secretariat at iuss@umweltbundesamt.at.

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Viewpoints and fact sheets – new items on the IUSS website

In the Newsroom of the IUSS website Prof. Rattan Lal, President of the International Union of Soil Sciences, regularly provides viewpoints on soil issues mainly addressed to the soil science community. In addition, the IUSS has started to provide fact sheets on soil in relation to issues of high importance for society. Topics covered will include Soil and climate change, Soil degradation and desertification, Soil perception of society, Soil and water quality, Soil and biodiversity, Soil governance, Soil and arts, Soil and health, Soil and history and Soil and food security. The fact sheets are written by well-known experts and are addressed not only to scientists, but also to decision makers and opinion leaders.
Read more about Fact Sheets
Read more about View Points

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IUSS Distinguished Service Award for Prof. Klaus Töpfer

On 24 May 2017 the International Union of Soil Sciences awarded Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Klaus Töpfer the Distinguished Service Medal in Berlin. The medal was presented during the Closing Plenary of the Global Soil Week 2017 addressing the theme ‘Catalyzing SDG Implementation through a Land and Soil Review.’ Attended by almost 300 participants, the meeting aimed to develop policy messages as input to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
With this award IUSS recognizes that Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Klaus Töpfer translated knowledge of soil science into policy and governance as German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety; Federal Minister for Regional Planning, Civil Engineering and Urban Development; Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations; Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme; founding and Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies.
IUSS has been and shall continue to be pleased to work with Prof. Klaus Töpfer and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies towards the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular by providing knowledge and expertise on soil functions and their impacts on sustainable life on planet earth.
Thus far the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) has presented the Distinguished Service Medal to two prominent world citizens and policy makers. In 2012 the first medal was awarded to HRH the late King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej in order to recognize His outstanding achievements in soil care and sustainable soil and land management. The second medal was presented to HE Hon’ble Stéphan Le Foll for promoting soil science on the global agenda through COP21, and for pointing out that soil and agriculture present integral solutions to climate change and advancing food security by implementing the “4 per Thousand” programme.
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Call for Nominations: Dokuchaev Award, Von Liebig Award, and the IUSS Jeju Award

Three awards are presented by the IUSS at each World Congress of Soil Science to recognize outstanding contributions in three areas:

  • IUSS Dokuchaev Award for basic research in soil science
  • IUSS Liebig Award for applied research in soil science
  • The IUSS Jeju Award for a young or mid-career soil scientist.
    Eligible nominees and nominators are members of the IUSS. Each award consists of an engraved medal or equivalent, a certificate, a US$ 1000 honorarium, and financial support to attend the presentation at the World Congress of Soil Science (WCSS).

Nomination procedures are on the IUSS Website:
>> Dokuchaev Award – information, criteria & guidelines
>> Von Liebig Award – information, criteria & guidelines
>> The IUSS Jeju Award – information, criteria & guidelines

Submissions are due one year before the beginning of the WCSS.
The next WCSS begins in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 12 August 2018. Therefore, nominations are due 12 August 2017. Nominators who have submitted previous nominations are encouraged to submit the nomination again.
For further information, please contact M.B. Kirkham (Email).
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Request for national elections of Officers for IUSS Divisions and Commissions 2017

Every four years elections the officers for the IUSS Divisions and Commissions are newly elected. According to the IUSS statutes and bye-laws (both version Oct. 2014) voting by IUSS Members shall be conducted electronically on a one vote per individual in each National Member Society basis, using a procedure developed by the National Society or adhering organization to the Union.

The list of nominated persons and the corresponding biographies provided by the Divisional Nominating Committees and the Electoral Committee are the basis for the election. All officers except the appointed First Vice-Chairs of the Divisions can be re-elected for one further term.

There will be one vote for each member and not adjusted in any manner to reflect the number of members in a National Society. Elections will be decided by a simple majority of votes cast.

The national Soil Science Societies are kindly asked to organise the national election of officers for Divisions and Commissions as foreseen in the IUSS Bye-laws (version Oct. 2014). The voting system for society members shall be open from 1 September 2017 to 31 December 2017. The list of nominated persons (ballot), the corresponding biographies and the guideline for the voting procedure in 2017 are provided on the IUSS website.

The Presidents of the National Member Society are kindly requested to send the results of elections to iuss@umweltbundesamt.at (Cc to Rainer Horn) before 28 January 2018.
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General News

Vacancy Announcement - Director ICSU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

The International Council for Science (ICSU) invites applications for the position of Director of its Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific which is hosted at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), in Kuala Lumpur.

ICSU is a non-governmental organization with a global membership of national scientific bodies (122 Members, representing 142 countries) and International Scientific Unions (31 Members). ICSU’s mission is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society.
To do this, ICSU mobilizes the knowledge and resources of the international science community to:

  • Identify and address major issues of importance to science and society.
  • Facilitate interaction amongst scientists across all disciplines and from all countries.
  • Promote the participation of all scientists—regardless of race, citizenship, language, political stance, or gender—in the international scientific endeavour.
  • Provide independent, authoritative advice to stimulate constructive dialogue between the scientific community and governments, civil society, and the private sector.
    ICSU is seeking candidates with the following qualifications and knowledge:
  • A PhD degree in a scientific discipline (or equivalent experience)
  • Proven experience in science management including experience in the organization and coordination of international inter-disciplinary and collaborative science initiatives
  • Fluent in written and spoken English
  • Demonstrated ability to lead a small team
  • Experience in fundraising for scientific activities
  • Prior knowledge of ICSU and its major partners and of regional initiatives for science in the Asia and Pacific region would be an additional advantage
    Skills
  • Excellent skills in strategic planning, as well as financial and people management
  • Ability to communicate effectively with a broad range of project stakeholders, including researchers from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds
  • Strong intercultural awareness
    The position requires frequent international travel.
    Applications should be received no later than 30 June 2017 (midnight, Paris time). It is expected that the Director will start his/her appointment in August 2017, or as soon as possible thereafter. This position is only open to citizens of countries of the Asia and Pacific region
    Read more

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Latin America loses one of its most famous soil scientists: Carlos C. Cerri (1946-2017)

The IUSS Secretariat was sad to learn that our distinguished colleague Carlos Clemente Cerri passed away on 22 April 2017 at the age of 71.
He graduated as agronomist in 1971. He took his master degree in 1974 and his PhD in 1979 in soil science. He was a full professor at the “Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura” (CENA) of the São Paulo University (USP, Brazil). After research on soil organic matter (composition, properties and dynamics), he performed research on soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions and mitigations in tropical conditions, especially in the Brazilian Amazon. He established a close scientific cooperation with many countries in the world including South America. Dr Cerri received several awards and honorary positions including being associated – with IPCC – to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He contributed to 260 scientific journal articles and authored more than 100 publications, 41 book chapters and 6 books.
Dr C. Cerri 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.
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In Memoriam Jan Frans De Coninck (1926-2017)

Dr. ir. Jan Frans De Coninck, Honorary Professor of Soil Science at the Faculty of Sciences of the Ghent University in Belgium died on June 10, 2017 at the age of 91.
Jan Frans De Coninck retired from the Ghent University on September 30, 1991, after 23 years of teaching in soil genesis and soil mineralogy at the International Training Centre for Post-graduate Soil Scientists, where he also served as Head of the Laboratory for Soil Analyses. In 1951 he joined the Belgian Centre for Soil Survey as chief cartographer and this was the beginning of a brilliant career in soil science. He established an international reputation for his research on the genesis and properties of Spodosols/Podzols. He was vice-President of Commission VII (Soil Mineralogy) of the International Society of Soil Science and European coordinator of the ICOMOD Commission (Spodosols) of the Soil Conservation Service of the USA.
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Presentations of a Soil Erosion modelling workshop

The workshop took place in Ispra, Italy (20-22 March 2017) and was organized by the Joint Research Centre (JRC). It hosted more than 110 participants and the 83 presentations are available for download. This workshop discussed mainly issues how the local/regional modeling results can be upscaled (or applied) at European scale. Emphasis was also given to management practices that can reduce soil erosion and small scale applications.
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Future rainfall erosivity projections (2050) based on climate change scenarios

The challenge to develop trends in soil erosion changes can be responded developing modelling scenarios of the two most dynamic factors in soil erosion: rainfall erosivity and land cover change.

The mean rainfall erosivity for the European Union and Switzerland is projected to be 857 MJ mm ha-1 h-1yr-1 till 2050 showing a relative mean increase of 18% compared to baseline data (2010).The changes are heterogeneous in the European continent depending on the future projec¬tions of most erosive months (hot period: April–September). The output results (published in a recent paper in the Journal of Hydrology) report a pan-European projection of future rainfall ero¬sivity taking into account the uncertainties of the climatic models. The rainfall erosivity in 2050 was modelled based on a moderate climate change scenario (HadGEM RCP 4.5) and using as main data sources the REDES based European R-factors. Data on erosivity projections are available.
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European Digital Archive of Soil Maps (EuDASM)

A new interface of this important archive is presented in ESDAC. The 5500 maps are available for download (PDF, JPEG) and allow the user to browse by country or continent. The EuDASM archive is the result of a collaboration between JRC and ISRIC. The objective of this collaboration was to transfer paper-based soil maps into a digital format with the maximum possible resolution and to ensure their preservation and easy disclosure. Many of those documents are more than 50 years old and include information and data from developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
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Call for applications for the selection of members of the Sino-European Panel on Land and Soil

In 2011, the European Commission DG Joint Research Centre (JRC) set up the Sino-European panel on Land and Soil (SEPLS). The group’s tasks are to provide the Commission with advice and expertise on the current state of land and soil resources and potential environmental and socio-economic consequences of their future utilization patterns. The Commission is calling for applications with a view to renewing the membership of the group. More info on the SEPLS can be found here. Deadline for applications: August 31, 2017.
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Global assessment of pressures on soil biodiversity

The JRC’s Soil Team is working on the first global assessment of the impacts on soil biodiversity by both anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic pressures. To reach this goal, JRC carries out a survey to incorporate expert judgments. The result of this survey will allow to rank the main pressures on soil life and to map their distribution at the global scale. Responses are essential for determining how to weight each pressure in the cumulative impact maps that will be produced. Therefore, participation in this process is highly appreciated.
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New Project to Promote Sustainable Soil Management in the Alpine Space

Living soil performs multiple ecosystem services for humans. The Interreg Alpine Space project Links4Soils will raise the awareness of them to the surface and develop sustainable soil management practices in different sectors. The Links4Soils project officially started with a Kick-off Conference in Ljubljana. Main outputs of the project are the Alpine Soil Partnership linking experts and decision-makers and the Alpine soil information and decision web platform. The Alpine Soil Partnership will be embedded as a subgroup of the Global Soil Partnership of the FAO and work hand in hand with existing organisations dealing with soils in the Alpine region (e.g. ELSA, EUSALP and the Alpine Convention). In a bottom-up approach the project will develop sustainable management plans for different land uses and sectors in the Alpine space.
Project Website
Alpine Soils Platform
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Sprucing Up Your Springtime Soils

For many gardeners, spring is the time to tend that garden they might have been neglecting all winter. One of the first steps is getting the soil back into shape. David Lindbo, the director of the Soil Science Division at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says soil is “an entire ecosystem unto itself.” He discusses how different types of soils are formed and shares methods for examining soil’s texture and color, which can clue you into its water and mineral content.
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The Economics of Soil Health

There are quantitative tests to determine soil health, there are qualitative tools to assess soil health, and there are predictive models to project changes in soil health. But after all the work, there is very little meaningful data to answer the most important question: does soil health improve farm economics? To find an answer to this, scientists compared multiple independent tests correlated to yield.
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Talking dirty: The conversation between plants and soil

Plants release chemicals into the soil, called exudates that tell microbes to turn on or turn off certain chemical processes. Scientists are beginning to understand these signals and are hoping to exploit them to improve the efficiency, sustainability and environmental impact of the trillion dollar agricultural industry.
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Readers recommend playlist: songs of earth, soil and dirt

My grandma used to say: “You have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.” Charley Patton, who starts us off this week, sounds as if he’s doing just that as he hollers and moans through Down the Dirt Road Blues. There are more songs that deal with earth, soil and dirt than you would imagine.
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Conferences, Meetings and Workshops

UniNuoro 2017 Summer School on Climate Change and Land Degradation Neutrality: Modelling Tools and Integrated Approaches

UniNuoro in Nuoro (Sardinia), Italy, July 17-21, 2017. On behalf of the University of Sassari, we are pleased to invite you to attend UniNuoro’s 2017 Summer School on “Climate Change and Land Degradation Neutrality: Modelling Tools and Integrated Approaches”. The School is targeted to graduates, doctoral and post-doctoral students in environmental disciplines, agronomy, soil science, applied biology, natural resource management, landscape planning, environmental sciences from all over the world.
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Conference Soil Classification a powerful tool for planning soil conservation

Riga (Latvia), 21 July 2017. Organised by the European Society for Soil Conservation in collaboration with Soil Science Society of Latvia. The event is combined with the International WRB Soil Classification Field Workshop in Latvia and Estonia (July 22-27, 2017).
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2nd Intensive Training Course on Soil Micromorphology

Centre de Formació Contínua UdL, Campus de Cappont, Lleida, Spain. September 25 to October 6, 2017. The course is directed to students or graduates in agronomy, archeology, geology, environmental sciences, forestry, or any degree including soil science or geoarcheology in its curriculum. Period of matriculation ends on September 17, 2017.
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IsoCycles 2017 Conference

Conference Centre Monte Verità, Ascona, Switzerland, October 15-20, 2017. The improvement of analytical techniques and the substantial increase in the number of laboratories with the instrumentation required to perform isotopic measurements have boosted the number of studies using stable isotopes. Stable isotopes of C, N, and S, and recently of O bound to P in phosphate, are powerful tools to trace sources, track transfers, and understand abiotic and biological processes and transformations of nutrients in the environment. However, although the biogeochemical cycles of individual nutrients are closely coupled, only a limited number of studies has attempted to combine stable isotope analyses of multiple nutrient elements. Advancing a coupled stable isotope research agenda in the important area of nutrient biogeochemistry is the opportunity we seek to exploit through the proposed conference. Submission of abstracts is open till July 15.
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Intersol 2018 Polluted Sites & Soils – Call for papers

Intersol (International Conference-Exhibition on Soils, Sediments and Water) will take place in Paris, France, March 27-29, 2018, under the theme “Polluted Sites and soils: A challenge for major urban projects!” Deadline for the call for papers (spoken presentations and posters): October 20, 2017.
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New publications

Exploring Soils. A Hidden World Underground

By Samantha Grover and Camille Heisler. Published June 2017 by CSIRO Publishing, 32 pages, colour illustrations, ISBN: 9781486305001, price hardcover $ 24.95.
Have you ever wondered what happens in the earth underneath us? James has, and he wants to learn more about soil. In Exploring Soils: A Hidden World Underground, James discovers that soil is not just dirt for digging in. He explores how plants and animals live in soil, how soils are formed, how they differ, and the ways that soil is essential in our lives. Exploring Soils will take you to an underground world filled with activity and discoveries. Perfect for ages 6 – 9.
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Research for AGRI Committee – Preserving agricultural soils in the EU

Berge, H.F.M. ten, Schroder, J.J., Olesen, J.E. and Giraldez Cervera, J.V. 2017, European Parliament, Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, Brussels. ISBN 978-92-846-0955-0.
This study explains how threats to soils and soil services are linked to agricultural soil management, how threats can be mitigated, and which barriers complicate this. It highlights trade-offs and synergies that exist between different interests affected by soil management, such as climate change mitigation, water and air quality, biodiversity, food security and farm income. Conservation of peatland and extensive agro-forestry systems, and protecting soils against sealing, erosion and compaction are ranked as highest priorities. Potential policy elements are suggested.
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China’s Soil Pollution and Degradation Problems

By Claudio O. Delang, May 11, 2017, Routledge, 146 pages. ISBN 9781138684607, price hardback £ 45.00.
China’s air pollution is infamous. The haze can make it impossible to see buildings across the street, and the pollution forces schools to close and creates health and morbidity problems, in addition to tremendous environmental degradation. However, China also faces another important environmental problem, which is less well-known to the public: that of soil degradation and pollution. This book provides an overview of the problems related to soil degradation and pollution throughout China, examining how and why current policy has fallen short of expectation. It also examines the challenges faced by policy makers as they attempt to adopt sustainable practices alongside a booming and ever-expanding economy.
China’s Soil Pollution and Degradation Problems utilizes grey literature such as newspaper articles, NGO reports and Chinese government information alongside academic studies in order to provide an extensive review of the challenges faced by grassroots organizations as they tackle environmental policy failings throughout China.
This book will be of great interest to students of environmental pollution and contemporary Chinese studies looking for an introduction to the topics of soil pollution and soil degradation, and for researchers looking for an extensive list of sources and analysis of China’s environmental problems more broadly.
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The Spirit of the Soil – Agriculture and Environmental Ethics, 2nd Edition

By Paul B. Thompson, May, 31, 2017, Routledge, 252 pages. ISBN 9781138676633, price softcover £ 29.99, hardback £ 110.00.
In this second edition of The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics, Paul B. Thompson reviews four worldviews that shape competing visions for agriculture. Productionists have sought increasing yields—to make two seeds grow where only one grew before—while traditional visions of good farming have stressed stewardship. These traditional visions have been challenged by two more worldviews: a call for a total cost accounting for farming and an advocacy for a holistic perspective. Thompson argues that an environmentally defensible systems approach must draw upon all four worldviews, recognizing their flaws and synthesizing their strengths in a new vision of sustainable agriculture. This classic 1995 study has been thoroughly revised and significantly expanded in its second edition with up-to-date examples of agriculture’s impact on the environment. These include extensive discussions of new pesticides and the effects of animal agriculture on climate and other areas of the environment. In addition, a new final chapter discusses sustainability, which has become a dominant idea within environmental studies and agrarian political philosophy.
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The Soils of Serbia

By Pavlović, P., Kostić, N., Karadžić, B., Mitrović, M., 1st ed. 2017 by Springer, XVI, 225 pages, 121 illus. World Soils Book Series, ISBN 978-94-017-8660-7, price hardcover € 164,99
The main objective of this book is to present the distribution and diversity of major soil types in Serbia. It focuses on giving a detailed description of the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil and their geomorphological forms, as well as the geological characteristics of parent material. An integrative approach is used to study the interaction between climate, vegetation and geology in soil formation. Special attention is paid to human-induced soil degradation due to the erosion and contamination of soils in Serbia. The book includes a harmonization of national soil classification systems, with the FAO, WBR and ESD systems.
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The Soils of Slovenia

By Vrščaj, Borut, Repe, Blaž, Simončič, Primož, 1st ed. 2017 by Springer, XXVI, 216 pages, 212 illus., 209 illus. in colour. World Soils Book Series, ISBN 978-94-017-8585-3, price hardcover € 126,49
This books gives a complete overview of the Soils of Slovenia, from soil research history, climate, geology, geomorphology, major soil types, soil maps, soil properties, classification, fertility, land use and vegetation, soil management, soils and humans, soils and industries and future soils issues.
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Manual of Methods for Soil and Land Evaluation

Edited by Edoardo A.C. Costantini, June 30, 2017 by CRC Press, 564 pages. ISBN 9781138113985, price paperback £ 59.99, hardback £ 97.00.
The goal of the manual is to supply an operational tool for pedologists, agronomists, environmentalists, and all of the other specialists who carry out land evaluation for agriculture and forestry or, more generally, stakeholders and policy makers who make decisions at the local level based on the knowledge of the nature of soil. Discussion of the topics is not only technical and operational, but also in-depth and didactic; therefore, the text may also be used as a valid complement for students majoring in subjects that involve soil use, management and conservation. The literature offers a wide choice of possible soil and land evaluation methods, while knowledge of the relationships existing between the physical characteristics of lands, particularly those of soils, and the requirements of specific uses is limited.
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Soil Biochemistry

By K Haider, Andreas Schäffer, June 30, 2017 by CRC Press, 132 pages. ISBN 9781138116306, price paperback £ 59.99, hardback £ 47.99.
Soils play a central role in the conversion of organic matter and element fluxes because of the large number of microorganisms present in the soil. In this book the more important processes that are driven by microbiological activity are discussed. It will be of interest to students of chemistry, biology, ecology, soil science and related areas. Researchers from these fields will profit from extended literature surveys in each chapter comprising important findings from early as well as the most recent investigations.
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Semi-Field Methods for the Environmental Risk Assessment of Pesticides in Soil

By Andreas Schaeffer, Paul J. van den Brink, Fred Heimbach, Simon P. Hoy, Frank M.W. de Jong, Jorg Rombke, Martina Roß-Nickoll, Jose P. Sousa, June 30, 2017 by CRC Press, 144 Pages, 36 B/W Illus. ISBN 9781138117969, price paperback £ 59.99, hardback £ 102.00.
The book includes a clear description of how to perform a higher-tier terrestrial risk assessment and provides a single reference on the subject. It examines various types of semi-field methods for soil assessment, including the use of terrestrial model ecosystems for pesticide risk assessment. In addition, the text also explores legislative and regulatory issues and offers technical recommendations. The book provides guidance on how to assess the soil risks of pesticides in the environment and explains how to use semi-field methods to access how pesticides may lead to spatial and temporal changes in soil biological communities and the larger agricultural landscape.
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