Further description:-  Soil 

Glossary Entry
Soil is generally defined as the top layer of the earth’s crust. It is formed by mineral particles, 
organic matter, water, air and living organisms. Soil is the interface between the earth (geosphere),
the air (atmosphere) and the water (hydrosphere). While soil is the physical upper layer of what is
usually referred to as “land”, the concept of “land” is much wider and includes territorial and spatial
dimensions. It is difficult to separate soil from its land context.

Research Overview – Soil


1.     Background


There is increasing evidence that altering climatic conditions, land use practices or contamination influence physical, chemical and biological soil properties, which are decisive for soil functioning (filter, buffer, transformation, and water storage functions). Changes in these properties have an impact on both water quantity and water quality due to mobilization/release of substances from soils and sediments or by facilitating the migration of substances through the soil layer towards the groundwater as well as by contaminant transport from sediment layers into surface waters, and vice versa. Although in Europe adequate water quality is one of the most eminent concerns for the future, it is recognized by recent EU policies (e.g., EU communication on a Thematic Strategy on Soil Protection) that the understanding of processes in the soil system is a prerequisite for the effective groundwater protection.


2.     Current Research Activities


Current research activities focus on gaining of a holistic understanding of the river – sediment – soil – groundwater system. Particularly, investigations of key biogeochemical processes and the impact of global change on the filter and transport functions of soils are of interest. Insights from these research efforts are required to gain an improved understanding of the properties and the functional role of soils, as well as of the behavior and fate of pollutants. Ongoing research on European level addresses following topic areas:


  • Interactions of pollutants between solids and water (adsorption, partitioning, desorption, etc.),
  • Prediction of sorption/desorption for pollutants of concern (organic compounds and heavy metals),
  • Evaluation of the biodegradation capacity in sediments and soils with novel diagnosis tools (e.g., application of molecular biological techniques),
  • Particles- and colloids facilitated transport of pollutants,
  • Trends on soils and sediments quality (e.g., impact of contaminants on the soil meso-fauna).


3.     Literature


Ahlf, W., Braunbeck T., Heise, S. and Hollert, H. (2002):

Sediment and Soil Quality Criteria. In: Burdon, F., Foerstner, U. (eds.). Environmental Monitoring Handbook. McGraw-Hill. New York.


Ahlf, W., Hollert, H., Neumann-Hensel, H., and Ricking, M. (2002):

A guidance for the assessment and evaluation of sediment quality – A German approach based on ecotoxicological and chemical measurements. JSS 2(1), 37-42.


Allen-King, R., Grathwohl, P., and Ball, W.P. (2002):

New Modeling Paradigms for the Sorption of Hydrophobic Organic Chemicals to Heterogeneous Carbonaceous Matter in Soils, Sediments, and Rocks. Advances in Water Researc, 25/8 - 12, 985-1016.


Christensen, T.H., Bjerg, P.L., Banwart, S., Jakobsen, R., Heron, G., and Albrechtsen, H.-J. (2000):

Characterization of redox conditions in groundwater contaminant plumes. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology 45, 165-241.


El Fantroussi, S., Urakawa, H., Bernhard, A.E., Kelly, J.J., Noble, P.A., Smidt, H., Yerkov, G.M., and Stahl. D.A. (2003):

Direct profiling of environment microbial populations by thermal dissociation analysis of native rRNA’s hybridized to oligonucleotide microarrays. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 69, in press.


Felske, A., Wolterink, A., van Lis, R., Akkermans, A.D.L., and de Vos, W.M. (2000):

Response of a soil bacterial community to grassland succession as monitored by 16S rRNA levels of the predominant ribotypes. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 66, 3998-4003.


Freyssinet P., Piantone P., Azaroual M., Itard Y., Clozel-Leloup B., Guyonnet D., and Baubron J.C. (2002):

Chemical changes and leachate mass balance of municipal solid waste bottom ash submitted to weathering. Waste Management 22, 159-172.


Hunkeler, D., Andersen, N., Aravena, R., Bernasconi, S.M., and Butler, B.J. (2001):

Hydrogen and carbon isotope fractionation during aerobic biodegradation of benzene. Environmental Science and Technology 35, 3462-3467.


Ryan, J.N., and Elimelech, M. (1996):

Colloid mobilization and transport in groundwater. Colloids and Surfaces A107, 1-56.



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