Climate-soil modelling

Past and future climate change affect soils in China

Climate-soil modellingPast climates have clear differences in leaching (the loss of water-soluble plant nutrients from the soil) of loess soils because of differences in temperature, rainfall and dust deposition. Therefore, loess sediments, which are deposited over long periods, are field documents of climates of the past.

To understand the effects that future climate change will have on these soils, climate-soil relations from the geological past are used to “train” simulation models. These trained models also allow to investigate human influences on the soil fertility by agriculture.

Case study China

The loess soils in China allowed early civilizations to flourish because of their high natural fertility. This natural fertility is weakened by increased leaching due to stronger precipitation, making soil fertility highly susceptible to climate change.

Stepwise approach

  • Measure soil properties developed under past climates in the last 1 M years
  • Simulate climate evolution for the Chinese Loess plateau
  • Simulate soil development over past climates and compare with measurements
  • Evaluate future soil development scenarios with well-trained models