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Soil sustainability in Europe as deduced from investigation of the critical zone (SOILCRITZONE)
Start date: 01 Aug 2007, End date: 31 Jul 2009 PROJECT  FINISHED 

We propose to organise a series of workshops that will coordinate a fragmented European community that undertakes soil research so that we can fully understand what policy needs to be developed for the sustainability of European soils. Our results will directly feed into a FP7 application on the soil life cycle. Our vision is to develop integrated and quantitative models that describe the linkages between key processes at the scale of the soil profile, and are supported with fundamental understanding of biological, chemical and physical mechanisms. We have the potential to move from ecosystem-specific, empirical approaches to predictive capabilities that are established more firmly from first principles and that can be transferred across a wide range of temporal and spatial scales. This is brought about by the innovative incorporation of extant knowledge with exciting new tools such as cosmogenic isotope profiling, advanced spectroscopy, tomographic imaging, reporter genes, micro-electrodes and other sensors to collect field data at high spatial resolution and environmental informatics. Powerful new computational methods such as parallel load balancing of numerical codes can now incorporate fully coupled descriptions of solute transport and detailed reaction mechanisms while accounting for spatial variability in soil properties. These modelling approaches provide a platform to develop a detailed description of how such processes interact with soil biology and other factors. A key requirement for this development is international collaboration to develop critical data sets. This includes comprehensive field studies at highly instrumented sites using agreed state-of-the-art methodologies applied to the full depth of soil profiles. We aim to set up soil observatories to understand the life cycle of soils to underpin soil protection initiatives in Europe.
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