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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

A framework for modelling soil structure dynamics induced by biological activity

Meurer, Katharina; Barron, Jennie; Chenu, Claire; Coucheney, Elsa; Fielding, Matthew; Hallett, Paul; Herrmann, Anke M.; Keller, Thomas; Koestel, John; Larsbo, Mats; Lewan, Elisabet; Or, Dani; Parsons, David; Parvin, Nargish; Taylor, Astrid; Vereecken, Harry; Jarvis, Nicholas

Abstract

Soil degradation is a worsening global phenomenon driven by socio-economic pressures, poor land management practices and climate change. A deterioration of soil structure at timescales ranging from seconds to centuries is implicated in most forms of soil degradation including the depletion of nutrients and organic matter, erosion and compaction. New soil-crop models that could account for soil structure dynamics at decadal to centennial timescales would provide insights into the relative importance of the various underlying physical (e.g. tillage, traffic compaction, swell/shrink and freeze/thaw) and biological (e.g. plant root growth, soil microbial and faunal activity) mechanisms, their impacts on soil hydrological processes and plant growth, as well as the relevant timescales of soil degradation and recovery. However, the development of such a model remains a challenge due to the enormous complexity of the interactions in the soil-plant system. In this paper, we focus on the impacts of biological processes on soil structure dynamics, especially the growth of plant roots and the activity of soil fauna and microorganisms. We first define what we mean by soil structure and then review current understanding of how these biological agents impact soil structure. We then develop a new framework for modelling soil structure dynamics, which is designed to be compatible with soil-crop models that operate at the soil profile scale and for long temporal scales (i.e. decades, centuries). We illustrate the modelling concept with a case study on the role of root growth and earthworm bioturbation in restoring the structure of a severely compacted soil.

Keywords

biological processes; degradation; dynamics; modelling; soil; structure

Published in

Global Change Biology
2020, volume: 26, number: 10, pages: 5382-5403
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Chenu, Claire
Universite Paris Saclay
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Hallett, Paul
University of Aberdeen
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Agroscope
Koestel, John (Koestel, Johannes)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Koestel, John (Koestel, Johannes)
Agroscope
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Or, Dani
ETH Zurich
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agricultural Research for Northern Sweden
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Vereecken, Harry
Helmholtz Association
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15289

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/107789