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Koebernick N.,Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research | Weller U.,Umwelt Gerate Technik GmbH | Huber K.,Julich Research Center | Schluter S.,Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research | And 4 more authors.
Vadose Zone Journal | Year: 2014

Root system architecture and associated root-soil interactions exhibit large changes over time. Nondestructive methods for the quantification of root systems and their temporal development are needed to improve our understanding of root activity in natural soils. X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) was used to visualize and quantify growth of a single Vicia faba L. root system during a drying period. The plant was grown under controlled conditions in a sandy soil mixture and imaged every second day. Minkowski functionals and Euclidean distance transform were used to quantify root architectural traits. We were able to image the root system with water content decreasing from 29.6 to 6.75%. Root length was slightly underestimated compared with destructive measurements. Based on repeated measurements over time it was possible to quantify the dynamics of root growth and the demography of roots along soil depth. Measurement of Euclidean distances from any point within the soil to the nearest root surface yielded a frequency distribution of travel distances for water and nutrients towards roots. Our results demonstrate that a meaningful quantitative characterization of root systems and their temporal dynamics is possible. © Soil Science Society of America All rights reserved.

"The theories behind what [The Martian author] Andy Weir wrote in his book are sound," says Jim Bell, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University. "A good soil for growing crops will have structure to hold the plant up, and provide the nutrients needed for growth. This is where Watney was headed in his 'soil recipe.' Of course, he had to use only the resources with him on the planet." In the movie, Watney mixes Mars soil with some of his freeze-dried feces (with apologies to the weak-stomached in the audience). According to soil microbiologist Mary Stromberger, Colorado State University, "In theory, Watney's waste would provide nutrients for growing plants. In reality, the Mars 'soil mixture' he made doesn't have the complex food web of microbes that we have on Earth. So, there might be some issues with the recycling of nutrients between soil and plants and atmosphere. And, we don't know if the fecal bacteria could thrive on Mars, even in a controlled environment....On the other hand, he had to use what was there, and this is a sci-fi movie!" In the book, Watney took other steps, such as fertilizing and amending soil, which were not included in the movie. "You can only include so much information in a movie lasting a little over two hours," says Bell. "The soil science community has defined soils to exist only on planet Earth, because the presence of life is critical" says Harold van Es, Cornell University. "We need to start thinking about soils on other planets. That's why, as part of our International Year of Soils celebration, the Soil Science Society of America invited Jim Bell to discuss this topic." Bell will present a lecture titled "Soils of Mars: Keys to Understanding the Habitability of the Red Planet" at SSSA's annual meeting on Nov. 18, 2015. To learn more about that lecture, visit https://www.soils.org/newsroom/releases/2015/1005/707/. The United Nations declared 2015 the International Year of Soils to bring attention to soils as a diminishing and important natural resource. SSSA developed educational materials and videos surrounding twelve monthly topics, found at http://www.soils.org/iys. Topics range from "Soils Sustain Life" and "Soils Support Agriculture" to "Soils and Climate" and "Soils Are Living." Explore further: In Brief: Martian soil oxidation-reduction potential not too extreme for life

News Article
Site: phys.org

One such plant is the shrubby reed-mustard. Natural gas and oil extraction projects have increased in Northeastern Utah where the plant grows. The construction of roads and well pads has fragmented shrubby reed-mustard habitats. The species is at risk for extinction. Plants provide us with vital resources such as food and medicines. They also reduce soil erosion and filter ground water. "We need to protect plant biodiversity to maintain ecosystems. Conserving rare plants like the shrubby reed-mustard is an important part of that effort," says Janis Boettinger. Boettinger is a soil scientist at Utah State University. Part of the challenge is not knowing exactly where the plants grow. To help, researchers at Utah State University developed a computer model. This model uses satellite imagery and elevation data to better understand where shrubby reed-mustard grows. It can also identify potential new habitats for this endangered plant. Most of us are familiar with models. Researchers use models to predict everything from weather patterns and sports wins to stock market performance and voting results. Models are collections of information, layered like Lego blocks. For example, local weather reports use wind direction, humidity, and other weather patterns. The information reveals trends and can predict future results. For the shrubby reed-mustard plant, soil data turns out to be a major building block in predicting habitat. "Our idea was to find large-scale information—such as soil color—from pre-existing satellite maps and digital databases. We could then connect to the known locations of shrubby reed-mustard plants," says Boettinger. The researchers already had GPS information for a number of sites where the plants were growing. Using satellite maps provided more visual clues. "We found that some of the soil characteristics where shrubby reed-mustard plants grow have a visual component that shows up on the satellite images," says study co-author Brook Fonnesbeck. Shrubby reed-mustard plants only grow in lighter-colored shale soils of a unique rock formation. Surrounding soils without the plants are much redder and darker sandstone soils. The researchers also visited several locations where shrubby reed-mustard plants grow. They noted surface features. They also measured soil characteristics. Researchers layered on-site measurements with GPS and satellite information. This built the model to predict where other shrubby reed-mustard plants grow. "With this model we can look at large areas very quickly," says study co-author Julie Baker. Baker is a soil scientist at USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. That's vital because the shrubby reed-mustard often grows in remote and rugged areas that are difficult to reach or survey. The model worked with an accuracy of almost 70%. And the remaining 30%? "We were often very close to the presence of shrubby reed-mustard," says Boettinger, "but the satellite images didn't have the spatial resolution to be exact." These models can provide an important tool for land managers. "It will help focus time, labor, and monetary efforts into areas with greater potential for success," Boettinger says. More importantly, this method can also be useful for other plants that have a special niche, says Boettinger. "If a plant species grows in areas with distinct soil characteristics, this model can be very useful to identify and predict its habitat." Read more about this research in SSSA Journal. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Utah State University Ecology Center supported this project. Explore further: Spicy plant cuts the mustard as nerve gas fighter More information: Julie B. Baker et al. Modeling Rare Endemic Shrub Habitat in the Uinta Basin Using Soil, Spectral, and Topographic Data, Soil Science Society of America Journal (2016). DOI: 10.2136/sssaj2015.09.0349

News Article | September 13, 2016
Site: www.huffingtonpost.com

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein all answered promptly and in some detail, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian, did not. Along with its partners in this effort -- a coalition of 56 leading U.S. science, medicine and engineering organizations representing more than 10 million people -- ScienceDebate.org not only calls on U.S. presidential candidates to address the 20 questions, but also encourages journalists, debate moderators and voters to press the candidates on them. "These 2- issues have at least as profound an impact on voters' lives as those more frequently covered by journalists, including candidates' views on economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values," said ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto. This view is supported by a 2015 national poll commissioned by ScienceDebate.org and Research!America which revealed that a large majority of Americans (87 percent) want candidates for President and Congress to have a basic understanding of the science informing public policy. The consortium crowd-sourced and refined hundreds of suggestions, then submitted the questions to the four campaigns along with an invitation to the candidates to discuss them on television, preferably in a live science debate (or forum) organized by the group. "Ideally, the people seeking to govern a first-world country would have a basic understanding of everything from sustainable energy to environmental threats to evidence-based medicine," observed the Des Moines Register in a recent editorial. "They would talk about these things... Imagine if the public -- and debate moderators -- pressured presidential candidates to talk about the country's electrical grid or emerging disease threats instead of abortion and transgender bathrooms. Political discourse would be smarter. And the individuals who seek the highest office in the land might learn a few things, too." The list of organizations supporting the 20 Questions project (see below) is a Who's Who of the American science enterprise. To support ScienceDebate's effort to raise awareness of the vital role science plays in modern life, visit ScienceDebate.org. Other supporters and signatories include over 20 Nobel prizewinners, major actors, university presidents, tech leaders, hospitals and hospital leaders, journalists, science activists, and dozens of other science, health, medicine, and engineering advocates from across the nation. **ScienceDebate.org *American Association for the Advancement of Science American Association of Geographers *American Chemical Society American Fisheries Society American Geophysical Union *American Geosciences Institute *American Institute of Biological Sciences American Institute of Professional Geologists American Rock Mechanics Association American Society for Engineering Education American Society of Agronomy American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists American Society of Mammalogists American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering Association for Women Geoscientists Association of Ecosystem Research Centers Automation Federation *Biophysical Society Botanical Society of America Carnegie Institution for Science Conservation Lands Foundation Crop Science Society of America Duke University Ecological Society of America Geological Society of America *IEEE-USA International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies Materials Research Society NACE International, The Worldwide Corrosion Authority *National Academy of Engineering *National Academy of Medicine *National Academy of Sciences National Cave and Karst Research Institute *National Center for Science Education National Ground Water Association Natural Science Collections Alliance Northeastern University Organization of Biological Field Stations Paleontological Society *Research!America Scientific American magazine Seismological Society of America *Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society Society for Science & the Public Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections Society of Fire Protection Engineers Society of Wetland Scientists Society of Women Engineers Soil Science Society of America SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Tufts University *Union of Concerned Scientists University City Science Center *U.S. Council on Competitiveness The Wildlife Society World Endometriosis Research Foundation America *Supplied experts to the questions development process **Lead organizer The consortium's list of 20 questions are available online at ScienceDebate.org/20answers.

Sofi J.A.,Soil Science | Bhat A.G.,Soil Science | Kirmai N.A.,Soil Science | Wani J.A.,Soil Science | And 3 more authors.
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment | Year: 2016

Soil quality assessment provides a tool for evaluating the sustainability of soils under different crop cafeterias. Our objective was to develop the soil quality index for evaluating the soil quality indicators under different cropping systems in northwest Himalaya-India. Composite soil samples were taken from the study area from different cropping systems which include T1 (forest soil control), T2 (rice-oilseed, lower belts), T3 (rice-oilseed, higher belts), T4 (rice-oats), T5 (rice-fallow), T6 (maize-oats), T7 (maize-peas), T8 (apple), T9 (apple-beans), and T10 (apple-maize). Physical, chemical, and biological soil indicators were determined, and it was found that soil enzyme activities involved in nutrient cycling were significantly higher in forest soils, which were reflected in higher levels of available pool of nutrients. Carbon stocks were found significantly higher in forest soil which was translated in improved soil physical condition. Principal component analysis (PCA) was performed to reduce multidimensionality of data followed by scoring by homothetic transformation of the selected indicators. Pearson’s interclass correlation was performed to avoid redundancy, and highly correlated variables were not retained. Inclusion of legumes in the apple orchard floor recorded highest soil quality rating across the treatments. Cereal-based cropping systems were found in lower soil quality rating; however, the incorporation of peas in the system improved soil health. © 2016, Springer International Publishing Switzerland.

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