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TropSOC – Tropical soil organic carbon dynamics along erosional disturbance gradients in relation to soil geochemistry and land use

Project Leader
Rewald Boris, BOKU Project Leader
Joint Projects
Type of Research
Basic Research
Project partners
Augsburg University, Universitätsstr. 2, 86159 Augsburg, Germany.
Contact person: Dr. Sebastian Dötterl;
Function of the Project Partner: Partner

Further information:

Sanden Hans, Project Staff
BOKU Research Units
Institute of Forest Ecology
Funded by
German Research Council, Kennedyallee 40, D-53175 Bonn, Germany
The response of soils to disturbance by erosion is one of the great uncertainties in predicting greenhouse gas fluxes from soils to the atmosphere and, hence, future earth system dynamics. This is largely due to a lack of data in remote areas, such as tropical Africa, but also due to an inadequate transfer of knowledge from smaller to larger scales. Tropical Africa is a hotspot of both climate and land use change. The region faces growing population, deforestation of primary forests and degradation of soils due to erosion. Hence, tropical Africa is expected to experience important changes to both soil biogeochemical cycling and ecosystem level carbon (C) fluxes between soil, plants and the atmosphere in this century. In particular, it is unclear how C dynamics differ in the Tropics compared to temperate climate zones, from which most of our mechanistic process understanding on C cycling is derived. It is important to fill this knowledge gap since tropical ecosystems provide services with global importance, such as C storage in plants and soils, soil fertility, plant productivity and ultimately food supply. The main objective of the proposed TROPSOC project is to develop a mechanistic understanding of C sequestration and release in the soils of Tropical Africa, studied in the Eastern part of the Congo Basin. This region provides a unique combination of (i) geologically diverse parent material for soil formation and (ii) different levels of disturbance by human activity, taking place under a humid, tropical climate regime, where pristine forests are converted into agricultural land at high rates. TROPSOC will make a significant contribution to answering the following questions: 1. How will nutrient fluxes and C allocation between soils, plants and the atmosphere evolve and differ in tropical systems in relation to the controlling factors: mineralogy, topography and vegetation? 2. How does geochemistry control, interact with or mediate the severity of erosional disturbance on C cycling in the critical zone of tropical soils? 3. How can we model the mechanisms controlling tropical soil C dynamics in a spatially explicit way? TROPSOC will make a significant contribution to improving our understanding of the factors that give rise to the spatial distribution and fate of C of tropical soil systems. By the end of the project, we will have a better understanding of the factors that give rise to the spatial distribution and fate of carbon in tropical soils. We will have produced benchmark data products and modeling tools that will help to bridge the gap between plot scale process understanding and large scale modeling of tropical C cycling. This will ultimately help to reduce the uncertainty associated with terrestrial C fluxes and the response of soils to disturbance, which is one of the greatest uncertainties in current Earth System Models and ecosystem service assessments.
At BOKU, we will predominantly focus on standing biomass and root turnover of roots in the (disturbed) ecosystems.
Erosion; Climate change; Forest ecology; Soil erosion; Soil science; Agroecology; Sustainable agriculture;
Soil carbon cycle; Erosion; Land use change; Nutrient cycle; Tropical ecosystem;

** Bukombe, B; Bauters, M; Boeckx, P; Cizungu, LN; Cooper, M; Fiener, P; Kidinda, LK; Makelele, I; Muhindo, DI; Rewald, B; Verheyen, K; Doetterl, S; Soil geochemistry - and not topography - as a major driver of carbon allocation, stocks, and dynamics in forests and soils of African tropical montane ecosystems..

New Phytol. 2022; 236(5):1676-1690 WoS PubMed FullText FullText_BOKU

Doetterl, S; Bukombe, B; Bauters, M; Boeckx, P; Cizungu, L; Cooper, M; Fiener, P; Kidinda, L; Makelele, I; Muhindo, D; Rewald, B; and Verheyen, K (2022): Soil geochemistry as a major driver of carbon allocation, stocks and dynamics in vegetation and soils of African tropical forests.
[European Geosciences Union EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23.05.2022 - 27.05.2022]

In: EGU, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-2938, FullText

** Doetterl, S; Asifiwe, RK; Baert, G; Bamba, F; Bauters, M; Boeckx, P; Bukombe, B; Cadisch, G; Cooper, M; Cizungu, LN; Hoyt, A; Kabaseke, C; Kalbitz, K; Kidinda, L; Maier, A; Mainka, M; Mayrock, J; Muhindo, D; Mujinya, BB; Mukotanyi, SM; Nabahungu, L; Reichenbach, M; Rewald, B; Six, J; Stegmann, A; Summerauer, L; Unseld, R; Vanlauwe, B; Van Oost, K; Verheyen, K; Vogel, C; Wilken, F; Fiener, P Organic matter cycling along geochemical, geomorphic, and disturbance gradients in forest and cropland of the African Tropics - project TropSOC database version 1.0.

EARTH SYST SCI DATA. 2021; 13(8): 4133-4153. WoS FullText FullText_BOKU


Rewald, B (2018): Root phenotyping of legume crops.

TropSOC Kickoff, MAR 5-9, 2018, Bukavu, DRC

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