Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

Research Group of Earth Surface Science (IBED-ESS)

The scientific mission of the research group ‘Earth Surface Science' is to improve our understanding of geo-ecological systems in a changing environment.

Vietnam river with soil material

A river in Vietnam carrying a load of valuable soil material eroded from an agricultural field: how is this affecting food security, climate change and the spread of pollutants across the globe?

Where soil, air and landscape meet

The domain of Earth Surface Sciences is formed by the interface of soil, air and water in the landscape. It encompasses the complex interrelationships between biogeochemical and geomorphological processes in terrestrial and adjacent aquatic ecosystems, and the effects thereon of Climate Change and direct human impact. A major challenge inherent to these processes is that they are of a biotic as well as an abiotic nature, and have large spatial and temporal heterogeneity. As a result, the core business of our Research Group is characterized by investigations of a vast array of complex interactions at scales ranging from the molecular to the landscape level. The challenges posed by such investigations can only be met by multidisciplinary approaches, innovative experiments and application of modern analytical tools.

An area of central interest to the Earth Surface Science group is the dynamics of organic matter in soils, sediments and waters. Indeed a complex research area, related to geomorphology, soil science, ecosystem functioning and the dynamics of pollutants in soils and waters. However, a research area also that is highly topical, taking into account that the dynamics of organic matter is extremely sensitive to changes in climate and land use, while being crucial for the main functions of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Scientific Challenges

  • Extent and controls of carbon stabilization in soils in relation to changes in climate and land use
  • Interactions between geomorphological processes and the dynamics of organic matter with a focus on effects of land degradation on C sequestration in soils
  • Fate and environmental risks of anthropogenic organic substances (perfluorinated compounds, brominated flame retardants, PAHs, pesticides) and natural ones (hormones, info-chemicals, natural toxins) in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems including their rates of degradation and role in multitrophic interactions
  • Response of biogeochemical cycles (e.g., carbon, nutrients, anthropogenic and natural organic substances, heavy metals) in the landscape to changes in climate and land use
  • Scale dependency of interactions between biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems - effects on the dynamics of processes in the landscape
  • Reconstruction of landscape history and climate - prediction of future developments
  • Development of integrated models of land use and land degradation focusing on mitigation of desertification and erosion, both on a detailed and a regional sca

Published by  IBED

20 November 2013