All posts by Sarah Garre

Thematic day 2018: Biogeochemical cycles and their role in the Earth system

What? Thematic day on “Biogeochemical cycles and their role in the Earth system”
When? November 21st, 2018
Where? Palace of the Royal Academies, Brussels

Description. Biogeochemical cycles are characterized by geo, i.e. physical and chemical transformations of an element on earth; bio, i.e. a cycle involves at least one biotic process; and cycle, because element species produced in one process are eventually consumed in a subsequent process. Biogeochemistry is, therefore, an interdisciplinary discipline that includes physical, chemical, and biological process that contribute to the functions and values of ecosystems on Earth.

Biogeochemical cycles fulfill key functions that are critically important to maintain life on Earth. These functions include: storage and use of radiation energy the Earth receives (CO2 fixation); and recycling of material, which allows the biosphere to use the same element over and over again. The elements studied in biogeochemical cycles depend on the scientific question to pursue, but in soil science we are merely interested in biogeochemical cycles because of the role they play defining the interaction between livings systems (e.g. plants, microorganisms) and the abiotic environment (e.g. soils, rocks). Major and minor elements are considered as essential or beneficial depending on their role in terrestrial biosphere functioning.

The interplays between elements (C, N, P, S and Fe, Mn, Si, Ca, Mg, K) are however are however central for understanding the role of biogeochemical processes on global balance of elements. The interdisciplinarity nature of biogeochemistry becomes obvious in various research lines, such as: catchment and river monitoring, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem functioning, biosphere-atmosphere exchange in a global change era, (global) nutrient cycles and their interactions, isotope systems, etc.

Keynote by Prof. Steven Bouillon (KULeuven) and Prof. Pascal Boeckx (UGent):
Congo basin biogeochemical cycles: linking terrestrial and aquatic processes’



We invite oral and poster submissions that studied biogeochemical cycles in soil systems, but highly encourage submissions that show interactions between the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere, thereby highlighting the key role of biogeochemical cycles for the Earth system. 

Please proceed to abstract submission and registration here.
Deadline for submission: October 19th, 2018.

SSSB member: 5 Euro
-Thematic Day only: 20 Euro
-Thematic day + Membership for 2019: 40 Euro

Excursion 2019: Soil in the City

Soil in the city: man shaping the Ghent urban landscape, hydrology and soils

The annual excursion of SSSB of 2019 will take place on 24th of May in Ghent.Eventbrite - Soil in the City | Field tripDuring the excursion, we will move to a habitat unknown to many soil scientists: the city. Although Flanders is highly urbanised, the urban soilscape remains a blind spot in our soil science knowledge. During this excursion, we will explore how man, throughout history, has shaped, and is still shaping the landscape, hydrology and soils of the city of Ghent. The excursion stops will take us to different historic parts of Ghent that testify to the various interactions between humans, soil, landscape, and hydrology, and illustrate how this influences ecosystem service delivery.

Join us on the excursion to reflect on how we can characterize, evaluate and manage our urban soilscape, and this against the stunning scenery of the city of Ghent! Subscription here.

Programme Day of the Young Soil Scientist #DYSS18

Book of abstracts DYSS18

13.30 – 13.45:    Registration and welcome coffee

13.45 – 14.15:    Keynote speaker presentation

14.15 – 14.30: “Effects of different terrace protection measures on runoff, soil and nutrient   losses in Buberuka highlands and Eastern plateau agro-ecological zones of Rwanda” by Jules Rutebuka (UGent)

14.30 – 14.40: PechaKucha “The impact of vegetation changes on soil moisture over the Dry Chaco” by Michiel Maertens (KUL)

14.40 – 14.55: “Monitoring of spatio-temporal variability of substrate moisture on green roofs with different substrates depths and link to biodiversity” by Cédric Bernard (ULiège)

14.55 – 15.05: PechaKucha “A review of Mongolian soil characteristics and its environmental issues” by Tamir Enkh-Amgalan (National University of Mongolia)

15.05 – 15.20: “Stable isotopic (2H, 18O) quantification of root water uptake distribution of tree and crop in agroforestry context” by Francoise Vanoverbeke (ULiège)

15.20 – 15.30:  PechaKucha “Does phytoliths become the main source of bioavailable Si in highly weathered soil?” by Félix de Tombeur (ULiège)

15.30 – 15.50:   Posters presentation

15.50 – 16.20:   Coffee break and poster presentations

16.20 – 16.40: “Sorption of 137Cs on glauconite sands from the Neogene” by Yaana Bruneel (Belgian Nuclear Research Centre)

16.40 – 16.50: PechaKucha “Soil quality and microbial life: how sequencing can pierce the black box” by Caroline De Tender (Research Institute for Agriculture)

16.50 – 17.10: “Assessing the heavy metals pollution in soil and vegetable in Lanping lead-zinc mining areas” by Judith Deblon (ULiège)

17.10 – 17.20: PechaKucha “Study of the impact of century-old biochar on soil chemistry and nutrient cycling in soil-plant systems” by Victor Burgeon (ULiège)

17.20 – 17.40: “The effect of micro-topography on 3D electrical resistivity measurements for monitoring of soil moisture in potato fields on sandy soil” by Thibault Manhaeghe (ULiège)

17.40 – 17.50: PechaKucha “Soil processes controlling Si bioavailability by increased pH after biochar amendment” by Zimin Li (UCL)

17.50 – 18.00: Concluding remarks


International excursion 2018: Soils and land use in the upper Rhine graben and cuesta landscapes

The International SSSB excursion 2018  will be hosted by our German colleagues from Hohenheim University, Baden- Württemberg: May 21st – 25th,  2018

We will witness soilscapes and land use developed in unique geomorphological landscapes related to the Rhine River graben and its related cuesta landscapes. The geological setting comprise strata varying from old granites, Jurassic  clays and sandstone, to more recent mid-rift volcanics and loess. Together with altitude differences ranging from 100 to 1500 meters above sea level, ingredients are present for a myriad of soil types to evolve. Together with scholars from Hohenheim University our Belgian participants will be in a position to explore these soilscapes and land use and above all reflect on land use, sustainability in a perspective of cultural history.

More information and photo report here.

In Memoriam Prof. Jules D’Hoore (1917-2017)

Jules D’Hoore was born in Sluis (the Netherlands) on 7th May 1917, while his family was on exile as Belgian refugees during WWI.  After the war his family returned to Bruges where he followed the Greek-Latin option at St. Lodewijkscollege. During the WWII Jules’s university studies were disturbed by the war mobilization and he was war prisoner for a short period. Eventually he obtained his diploma of Engineering in Chemistry and Agricultural Industries from the State Higher Agronomic Institute in Ghent 1943. He stayed on as assistant at the Faculty of Sciences of the State University of Ghent, in the Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry (Prof. J. Gillis).

In 1946, Jules undertook his first mission to Congo as assistant researcher in the Department of Agrology, INEAC, Yangambi. While serving as visiting Researcher of Wisconsin, USA in 1949 he made visits to soil laboratories of the Universities of Ames, Cornell, and Pennsylvania  State and to the US Soil Conservation Service, Washington, DC. In 1951 Jules participated to an OECE mission (3 months) in western Africa in company of L.T. Alexander (USA), R. Maignien and G. Aubert (France), and C. Bloomfield (UK): field study of laterisation phenomena.

In 1950 Jules D’Hoore started his doctoral project under supervision of L. De Leenheer at the then State Higher Agronomic Institute in Ghent (which later became the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Ghent). On 10th September 1953 he defended summa cum laude his thesis with title ‘The Accumulation of free Sesquioxides in Tropical Soils’. He was the first to obtain his PhD at this Institute/Faculty, not his last pioneer achievement. With this thesis he became a world authority on the processes which lead to laterite soils (present-day Plinthosols).

In 1953 he was detached to the Commission for Technical Cooperation in Africa (CCTA) as Director of the Service Pédologique Africain / Interafrican Pedological Service (SPI). In 1954 Jules was involved in the preparation of the “II° Conférence Interafricaine des Sols” (2nd Inter-African Soil Conference) and the International Soil Congress of Leopoldville, Congo. In this period he started assembling the soil map of Africa at 1/5,000,000 scale. For that purpose he made several visits to the major soil centers of Africa and Madagascar along with field work during numerous soil correlation meetings with regional soil scientists active in Africa.

During his fourth mission to Congo in 1956 he designed a first approximation of the Soil Resources Map of Africa and of its provisional legend. This map was verified during numerous regional workshops all over Africa. The third approximation of the Soil Resources Map of African was presented in 1960 during the 7th International Soil Congress at Madison, USA. At that time, the baseline documentation of that map, stored in Yangambi, becomes inaccessible, because of the evacuation of this research center. Jules had no other option than reconstituting this documentation by personal mailing to correspondents. He was temporary hosted by the “Service Pédologique Interafricain” (Inter African Soil Service) in Ghent, thanks to the hospitality of Professor De Leenheer and Professor Tavernier. In 1962 he is assigned as member of the “Advisory Committee Project World Soil Map”, FAO-Unesco.

In 1962 Jules joins the Centre for Tropical Soil Studies at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. He drafts the Fifth Approximation of the Soil Resources Map of Africa which is eventually published in 1963 in French and in English along with its legend and an elaborate explanatory text.

In 1970 Jules makes a study visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland, USA and studies remote sensing techniques and their usability for soil observation and broad scale soil  mapping. As of then he is prominently present in international fora on remote sensing (ESRO) as delegate from Belgium, among many others the new department of Remote Sensing of the Joint Research Centre, EURATOM, Ispra, Italy. He also was the inspirator of a state funded programme on remote sensing studies in Belgium. In 1976 he becomes the permanent Belgian member at the Remote Sensing Advisory Group at ESA (European Space Agency), charged by the Science Policy Office, Brussels.

Also in that year he is elected President  of the Soil Science Society of Belgium. As of 1977 Jules is  member of the “Klasse voor Natuur- en Geneeskundige Wetenschappen van de Koninklijke  Academie voor Overzeese Wetenschappen” (Class for Nature and Medical  Sciences of the Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences). He also gets actively involved in the first versions of Belgium-supported Inter-University Development Cooperation with missions to Zambia, Malaysia, Thailand and Congo. In 1983 Jules is  Entitled Member of the Class for Nature and Medical Sciences, Royal  Academy of Overseas Sciences. During his professional career, Jules D’Hoore was honored several times with awards such as the price “Wetteren”, Royal Academy of Sciences, Belgium (together with J. Fripiat), the “Medal Order of the Lion” and “Great Officer in the Leopold Order”.

With his lectures edging at the frontline of scientific development, Jules D’Hoore was an excellent professor, giving his students a world view on soil genesis and soil geography, and a strong feel for interdisciplinarity, as he had worked with agronomists, geologists, ecologists and others during his career. With his Soil Resources Map of Africa he made school internationally and this valuable document still remains till today an important reference milestone from where new tropical natural resources work is starting. Jules D’Hoore’s soil map of Africa was recently the center-piece of the ‘Africa in Profile exhibition’ which was organized at KU Leuven to mark the International year of the Soil in 2016. For the occasion, Jules kindly allowed recording an elaborate interview in which he reflects on his Soil Resources Map of Africa.

Jules D’Hoore from Sarah Garre on Vimeo.

Jules D’Hoore had a somewhat rigid appearance, but in fact he was a sensitive person, with discrete empathy for those in need. He was famous for his erudition, fluency in languages and his interest in art, culture and history, which he liked to share. Jules had a sarcastic sense of humor and a capacity for making verbal caricatures. His speech at the day of celebrating the end of his career will be remembered for two rather ‘Julian’ expressions: he compared the soil to a ‘palimpsest’ – a reused manuscript bearing traces of older writings, and he likened his career as a ‘time of great delight’. During his long retirement period, he kept delight in remembering his achievements and sharing it with visitors.

Jules D’Hoore passed away in his home on 19/09/2017,  a few months after he celebrated his 100th anniversary with family and friends. He was a great man, a polymath whose stories will continue living on among the large community who had the chance of knowing him.

We end this in Memoriam with two quotes from Jules which we found in his Memoires (Family Archive, 2004):

“…during our long travel through West-Africa for studying laterites in the Sahel, we often slept the night on a roof terrace. Safe of the odd cycads it was dead-silent, the stars hanging high in the sky like balls on a Christmas tree in the firmament. Sleeping in, I was thinking of the immemorial Chaldese astrologists, or better the proto-theologists, who could read God’s will from the run of the stars. They stood round me in a big group and I could recognize Copernicus, Galilei and Kepler. In that that excellent company I fell asleep till the morning chill woke us up to see the first stripe of yet another sunny day… “

“During my career I was able to travel a lot by sea, by land and though the sky… I could reflect and dream away above mountain chains, tropical rain forest, steppes and deserts, icy plains of Greenland, a snow-covered Canada, great water falls … Victoria, Niagara… safe dreaming is never to be taken for granted, also not when watching mother earth from the window of an air plane…”.

By Hubert Gulinck and Seppe Deckers