The vadose zone is one of the most critical life-supporting compartments of the Biosphere. The vadose zone provides numerous ecosystem services such as a habitat for biodiversity, water and nutrients, as well as producing food, feed, fiber and energy. To feed the rapidly growing world population in 2050, agricultural food production must be doubled using the same land resources footprint. At the same time, soil resources, are threatened due to improper management and climate change. Soils and the vadose zone are not only essential for establishing a sustainable bio-economy, but they also regulate and support water, mass and energy fluxes between the land surface, the vegetation, the atmosphere and the deep subsurface and control storage and release of organic matter affecting climate regulation and biogeochemical cycles. Despite the many important functions of soil, many fundamental knowledge gaps remain, regarding the role of soil biota and biodiversity on ecosystem services, the structure and dynamics of soil communities, the interplay between hydrologic and biotic processes, the quantification of biogeochemical processes and structural processes in the vadose zone, the resilience and recovery of soils from stress, as well as the prediction of soil development and the evolution of soil and the vadose zone in the landscape, to name a few.
A whole systems approach comprising all physical, mechanical, chemical and biological processes is required to address these critical knowledge gaps and thus contribute to the preservation of ecosystem services, improve our understanding of climate-change–feedback processes, bridge basic soil science research and management, and facilitate the communication between science and society.
This session includes contributions from the field of soil sciences, biogeosciences, engineering, hydrology and environmental sciences presenting novel experimental, conceptual, and modelling approaches, including coupled processes and at different spatial and temporal scales.