SSS 2020/2021 Philippe Duchaufour Medal Lectures & Division Outstanding ECS Award Lectures
Convener: Claudio Zaccone
| Wed, 21 Apr, 15:00–17:00 (CEST)

Session assets

Session materials

Presentations: Wed, 21 Apr

Chairperson: Claudio Zaccone
SSS Division Outstanding ECS Award Lecture 2020
Sebastian Doetterl

Good time for soil scientists, bad time for soils? Join me at my Soil System Sciences - OECS award lecture where I will highlight how Global Change affects soils across ecosystems and what this means for future plant-soil inter­actions and biogeochemical cycles in a warming, crowded world out of balance.Global Change from the Arctic to the Tropics has accelerated drastically in recent decades, subsequently effecting ecosystems everywhere. Soils and biogeochemical cycling within are no exception. For example, how carbon and nutrients are stabilized in and released from soil is highly affected by changing land use and climate. Despite these changes, soil in earth system models is not represented mechanistically, but rather given a mostly budgetary "black box" function. No methodological framework is available that accounts for the combined effects of climate, geochemistry and disturbance on soil dynamics at larger scales. In addition, most of our process understanding of biogeochemical cycling in soils is derived from data-rich temperate regions. This data has limited applicability in low latitudinal (tropics) or high latitudinal (boreal/subpolar) climate zones, where soils have different properties and drastically different developmental histories.In my talk I will illustrate with a few examples how the gaps in our understanding of soil processes across climate zones and dismissing lateral soil fluxes leads to large uncertainties in predicting future trajectories of the global carbon cycle. I will highlight how the interactions of weathering and disturbance can influence and dominate biogeochemical cycles and microbial processes in soils. I will also discuss some directions where geochemical proxies that are available at the global scale can be useful to model the spatial and temporal patterns of soil carbon storage and turnover.

How to cite: Doetterl, S.: Soils in a changing world, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-720,, 2021.

SSS Division Outstanding ECS Award Lecture 2021
Lucia Fuchslueger

The Amazon rainforest is an important sink for atmospheric CO2 counteracting increased emissions from anthropogenic fossil fuel combustion and land use change storing large amounts of carbon in plant biomass and soils. However, large parts of the Amazon Basin are characterized by highly weathered soils (ultisols and oxisols) with low availability of rock-derived phosphorus (and cations), which are mostly occluded in soil or bound in organic matter. Such low phosphorus availability is thought to be (co-)limiting plant productivity. However, much less is known whether low phosphorus availability influences the activity of heterotrophic microbial communities controlling litter and soil organic matter decomposition and thereby long-term carbon sequestration in tropical soils.

In tropical soils high temperature and humid conditions allow overall high microbial activity. Over a larger soil phosphorus fertility gradient across several Amazonian rainforest sites, at low P sites almost 40 % of total P was stored in microbial biomass, highlighting the competitive strength of microorganisms and their importance as P reservoir. Across all sites soil microbial biomass was a significant predictor for soil microbial respiration, but mass-specific respiration rates (normalized by microbial biomass C) rather decreased at higher soil P. Using the incorporation of 18O from labelled water into DNA (i.e., a substrate-independent method) to determine microbial growth, we found significantly lower microbial growth rates per unit of microbial biomass at higher soil P. This resulted in a lower microbial carbon use efficiency, at a narrower C:P stoichiometry in soils with higher P levels, and pointed towards a microbial co-limitation of phosphorus and carbon at low soil P levels. Furthermore, data from a multi-year nutrient manipulation experiment in French Guiana and from short-term lab incubations suggest that microbial communities thriving at low P levels are highly efficient in taking up and storing added P, but do not necessarily respond with increased growth.

Soil microbial communities play a crucial role in soil carbon and phosphorus cycling in tropical soils as potent competitors for available P. They also play an important role in storing and buffering P losses from highly weathered tropical soils. The potential non-homoeostatic stoichiometric behavior of microbial communities in P cycling is important to consider in soil and ecosystem models based on stoichiometric relationships.

How to cite: Fuchslueger, L.: Investigating nutrient controls over microbial activity in tropical soils, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8289,, 2021.

Philippe Duchaufour Medal Lecture 2020
Georg Guggenberger, Patrick Liebmann, Robert Mikutta, Karsten Kalbitz, Patrick Wordell-Dietrich, Timo Leinemann, Sebastian Preusser, Jörg Bachmann, Axel Don, Ellen Kandeler, Bernd Marschner, and Frank Schaarschmidt

Formation of mineral-associated organic matter (MAOM) is a decisive process in the stabilization of OM against rapid microbial decomposition and thus in the soils’ role as global carbon (C) sink. Sorption experiments of dissolved OM (DOM) repeatedly showed that particularly mineral subsoils have a large sorption capacity to retain more C. However, there is also an increasing body of literature, revealing an increasing output of dissolved organic C (DOC) from soils. Here, we investigated into this paradox in forest soil under beech by a combination of a field labelling experiment with 13C-enriched litter with a unique DO13C and 13CO2 monitoring, an in-situ C exchange experiment with 13C-coated minerals, and batch sorption experiments.

Within two years of 13C monitoring, only 0.5% of litter-derived DO13C entered the subsoil, where it was only short-term stabilized by formation of MAOM but prone to fast microbial mineralization. The 13C monitoring, sorption/desorption experiments in the laboratory, and also the in-situ C exchange on buried soil minerals revealed that there is a frequent exchange of DOM with native OM and a preferential desorption of recently retained OM. Hence, there appeared to be a steady-state equilibrium between C input and output, facilitated by exchange and microbial mineralization of an adopted microbial community. The remobilized OM was also richer in less sorptive carbohydrates. Along with transport of most of DOM along preferential paths, this further increased the discrepancy between laboratory-measured sorption capacities of subsoil and the actual C loading of minerals. Finally, the 13C labeling experiments revealed that input of fresh litter-derived OM into subsoil may even mobilize old-soil derived OM. Hence, in the field different biogeochemical constraints are acting that prevent that the laboratory-based C sink can be reached in the field.  We conclude, that forest subsoils can hardly be considered as additional C sink, even at management options that increase DOC input to subsoil.

How to cite: Guggenberger, G., Liebmann, P., Mikutta, R., Kalbitz, K., Wordell-Dietrich, P., Leinemann, T., Preusser, S., Bachmann, J., Don, A., Kandeler, E., Marschner, B., and Schaarschmidt, F.: Additional carbon stabilization in temperate subsoils impeded by biogeochemical and hydraulic constraints, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14580,, 2021.

Philippe Duchaufour Medal Lecture 2021
Donald Sparks

Environmental change, particularly the impact of climate change, is having a profound impact on humankind. Rising seas and temperatures are causing increasing flooding and melting of ice and permafrost soils. The impact of these processes on biogeochemical cycling of metals, carbon, and nutrients in soils and water is not well understood. For example, how do rising seas, which cause inundation of soils with saline water, followed by retrenchment, and salinization of groundwater, affect cycling of redox active elements such as arsenic and iron as well as nutrients such as phosphorus.  Complexation of carbon with iron-bearing minerals is a major mechanism for carbon retention. Under changing climatic conditions, how will carbon cycling be impacted, particularly in permafrost soils, which are sinks for a large portion of terrestrial carbon? This presentation will explore these questions, and others, over a range of spatial and temporal scales.

How to cite: Sparks, D.: Impact of Environmental Change on Biogeochemical Cycling in Soil Systems, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-435,, 2021.


Additional speakers/contributors without abstracts

  • Beatrice Giannetta, University of Torino, Italy
  • Teodoro Miano, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy