A framework for modelling soil structure dynamics induced by biological activity

Katharina Meurer , Jennie Barron, Claire Chenu, Elsa Coucheney, Matthew Fielding, Paul Hallett, Anke Herrmann, Thomas Keller, John Koestel, Mats Larsbo, Elisabet Lewan, Dani Or, David Parsons, Nargish Parvin , Astrid R Taylor, Harry Vereecken, Nicholas Jarvis* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

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 time scales 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 time scales 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 time‐scales 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5382-5403
Number of pages22
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume26
Issue number10
Early online date23 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • biological processes
  • degradation
  • dynamics
  • modelling
  • soil
  • structure
  • PHYSICAL-PROPERTIES
  • ARBUSCULAR MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI
  • WATER RETENTION CURVE
  • HYDRAULIC-PROPERTIES
  • ORGANIC-MATTER
  • BULK-DENSITY
  • RAY COMPUTED-TOMOGRAPHY
  • EARTHWORM BURROW SYSTEMS
  • PORE STRUCTURE CHANGES
  • ENCHYTRAEIDAE OLIGOCHAETA

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