Sustainable Soils Group @ EGU 2023

Members of the Sustainable Soils Group at Lancaster Environment Centre are in Vienna this week for the European Geosciences Union General Assembly – a meeting of 1000s of scientists from across the world, and with delegates online since the pandemic.

From the mystery of missing phosphorus in long-term agricultural experiments, to the mysteries of tree methane in the Brazilian Amazon and new data science techniques to new microscopy methods, we’re looking forward to sharing our research, meeting others with shared interests, and catching up with friends and colleagues.

See below for the timetable of contributions – come meet with us or join online and find out more:


EGU23-12072 | Posters on site | BG3.5  

Does elevated CO2 alter root architecture and biomass after 5 years in a mature temperate woodland?   

Angeliki Kourmouli, Liz Hamilton, Rebecca Bartlett, Rosemary Dyson, James Gore, Robert Grzesik, Iain Hartley, Iain Johnston, Alexandra Kulawska, Carolina Mayoral, Susan Quick, Michaela Reay, Zongbo Shi, Andy Smith, Sami Ullah, Clare Ziegler, and A. Rob Mackenzie
Mon, 24 Apr, 10:45–12:30   Hall A | A.228 


Tree methane: Getting to the root of it.  
Holly Blincow, Sunitha Pangala, Niall McNamara, and Alison Hoyt
Tue, 25 Apr, 08:53–09:03   Room 2.95, EGU23-1783 | Oral session | BG3.25  

Can we account for the “missing” phosphorus in simulated low phosphorus agricultural systems? 

Jennifer Davies, Victoria Janes-Bassett, Martin Blackwell, Andrew Burgess, Jessica Davies, and Philip Haygarth
Tue, 25 Apr, 11:30–11:40   Room 1.15/16, EGU23-3112 | Oral session | BG1.5 

Identifying soil signatures from soil moisture time series via a changepoint-based approach   

Mengyi Gong, Rebecca Killick, Christopher Nemeth, John Quinton, and Jessica Davis
Tue, 25 Apr, 16:30–16:40   Room G2, EGU23-2400 | Oral session | NP4.1  


Building on soil sustainability: Principles for soils in planning and construction

Jess Davies, John Quinton, Roisin O’Riordan, Paul Hatch, Susanna Dart, Adam Birchall, Birgit Hontzsch, Charles Campion, and Noel Farrer
Thu, 27 Apr, 15:05–15:15   Room 0.96/97, EGU23-7840 | Oral session | SSS12.2 


Towards quality-assured measurements of microplastics in soils using fluorescence microscopy

Quynh Nhu Phan Le, Crispin Halsall, Stoyana Peneva, Olivia Wridley, Wulf Amelung, Melanie Braun, John Quinton, and Ben Surridge
Fri, 28 Apr, 14:05–14:15   Room K2, EGU23-13873 | Oral session | SSS7.4 

Quantifying the movement of microplastics in soil in response to overland flow and splash erosion

Emilee Severe, Ben Surridge, Rachel Platel, Michael Coogan, Michael James, Peter Fiener, and John Quinton
Fri, 28 Apr, 15:05–15:15   Room K2, EGU23-13713 | Oral session | SSS7.4 

Novel Printed Soil Decomposition Sensors Based on Biodegradation   

Madhur Atreya, John-Baptist Kauzya, Stacie DeSousa, Evan Williams, Austin Hayes, Karan Dikshit, Jenna Nielson, Abigail Palmgren, Sara Khorchidian, Shangshi Liu, Anupama Gopalakrishnan, Eloise Bihar, Carson Bruns, Richard Bardgett, John Quinton, Jessica Davies, Jason Neff, and Gregory Whiting
Fri, 28 Apr, 17:15–17:25   Room -2.20, EGU23-8573 | Oral session | SSS8.4   

World Soil Day Blog #10: Harvest Reflections and the Growth of Plastics

Emilee Severe, PhD Student, Lancaster Environment Centre


If you look out the kitchen window at my parent’s home you will see my mother’s pride and joy (and no it’s not me) it is a small patch of soil, her garden. As a growing girl, I spent hours in that garden, making rows, planting seeds, supporting my mother in her endless war against the weeds and of course the culmination of our summer’s labour, harvesting. I can remember small changes my parents made over the years to improve our bounty. As a little girl, I can vaguely remember using raised soil beds for the carrots. Then we moved to planting everything in ridges and furrows. Later, to suppress the weeds, we added grass clippings around the borders of the garden. I remember my dad creating all sorts of cages, stringed lines and stakes to help the tomato plants grow tall and fruitful.   Continue reading

World Soil Day Blog #9: You can’t teach old trees new tricks, or can you?

Angeliki Kourmouli, Senior Research Associate Lancaster Environment Centre


Photo credit: Thomas Downes

All human activities, from breathing to burning fossil fuels, emit carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. Once the CO2 molecules are in our atmosphere, they absorb and radiate heat, and together with a group of other gases, they create the greenhouse effect. Because of this effect, we are able to live on this planet without freezing to death! However, because of the increases in our activities the concentration of atmospheric CO2 has been rapidly increasing, breaking a record high in 2021 [1] trapping more heat in the atmosphere and increasing global temperatures.   Continue reading

World Soil Day Blog #8: Ken-ya manage soils more sustainably?

Tommy Escott, Research Associate, Lancaster Environment Centre

Twitter: @tommyjescott

Photo credit: John Quinton

Soil is fundamental to global food production, whether it be in the direct production of crops or providing feed to sustain livestock. The physical, biological, and chemical properties of soils have a defining influence on yield, which can make or break the ability of societies to put food on the table. Therefore, protecting our soils, whilst maximising output is an important balancing act. Continue reading

World Soil Day Blog #7: To P or not to P? The question for sustaining soybean soils

Hannah Walling, PhD student, Lancaster Environment Centre

Twitter: @HannahWalling98

Soil plays a key role in all food production, with soils providing over 95% of food and mineral nutrition for human life [1]. My PhD research is focused on the role of soils and nutrients in soybean, with a focus on phosphorus (P). Soybean (Glycine max L. (Merr.)) is a globally important crop, with production levels today being 13 times higher than the 1960s [2]. Soybean, or soya as it is more commonly known, acts as the largest source of both vegetable oil and animal feed, as well as being a key component of vegan or vegetarian diets [3]. The demand for soya is continuing to increase, with 5% of the UK population now being vegan or vegetarian [4] contributing to demands of increased soybean production.  

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World Soil Day Blog #6: Unsung city soils – can they put more food on our plates?

Jess Davies, Professor of Soil Sustainability, Lancaster Environment Centre Twitter: @ProfJess Davies

Image Credit: Roots in the City Community Garden in Liverpool, part of our Liverpool Growers Network that grew out of Rurban Revolution.

In the hustle and bustle of a city, have you ever stopped to think about the soil under your feet? If not, you can be forgiven. Soils in urban places – be they villages, towns, cities, or suburbs – have often been overlooked by not only the general public, but also scientists. Continue reading

World Soil Day Blog #5: Soil loss – a future of scarcity?

Helena Ripley, PhD Student, Lancaster Environment Centre

I know the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and Devon well, an incredible landscape that fostered my interest in the environment from a young age. This part of the world introduced me to my first scientific hero, Mary Anning, and gave me a context from which to understand the cycles of the natural world. Continue reading

World Soil Day Blog #4: Tree methane – Getting to the root of it

Holly Blincow, PhD Student, Lancaster Environment Centre

Twitter: @HollyBlincow

 When you think of trees, you often associate them with providing oxygen, up-taking carbon dioxide (CO2) and playing a vital role in mitigating against global warming. Whilst all that is true, more recent discoveries have shown they emit methane (CH4), particularly in wetlands and peatlands across the world… 

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World Soil Day Blog #3: Plastics in farming – an emerging risk?

Nhu Phan, PhD Student, Lancaster Environment Centre

Twitter @QNPhanLe98

Have you ever walked by an agricultural field and noticed instead of plants stretching for miles you see rows and rows of plastics? Surprisingly as it may seem, that is just a small portion of the plastics being used on the farms. There are also plastics-coated seeds and fertiliser, the pipes irrigating the fields, and the packaging around the final products. Plastic also makes their way into biosolid fertiliser as well as municipal compost which is deliberately spread on the field. For years, plastic has become a key component in our modern agriculture.

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