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New SFB1070 RessourceCultures Publication:

“What’s in a colluvial deposit? Perspectives from archaeopedology”

We used an archaeopedological multi-proxy approach on a multi-layered colluvial deposit in Southwest Germany to reconstruct from soil properties land use practices since the Neolithic such as deforestation, wood procurement, the use of fire and livestock farming, which simultaneously shaped the landscape and triggered colluvial deposition.

“What’s in a colluvial deposit? Perspectives from archaeopedology” is available online at doi: 10.1016/j.catena.2020.105040




New SFB1070 RessourceCultures Preprint:

“Middle Bronze Age land use practices in the north-western Alpine foreland”

Middle Bronze Age land use practices such as ploughing, the presence of forest pasture mainly used for pig farming, livestock husbandry on fallow land and the use of fire for various purposes were reconstructed from soil properties, biogeochemical proxies of colluvial deposits and the archaeological record in SW Germany (Hegau).

“Middle Bronze Age land use practices in the north-western Alpine foreland ‐ A multi-proxy study of colluvial deposits, archaeological features and peat bogs” is available online at



Recent article highlighted on Soil Systems' frontpage:

"How Do Newly-Amended Biochar Particles Affect Erodibility and Soil Water Movement?"

Our new article on „How Do Newly-Amended Biochar Particles Affect Erodibility and Soil Water Movement?—A Small-Scale Experimental Approach “ was recently highlighted on the front page of the journal Soil Systems.

In this study, we demonstrate that biochar amendments immediately reduce soil degradation by water erosion without long-term incorporation of particles into the soil.



Nature Communications Publication:

Iron mineral dissolution releases iron and associated organic carbon during permafrost thaw


Bacteria release climate-damaging carbon from thawing permafrost

Researchers from the Universities of Tübingen and Bristol show that iron minerals fail to trap the organic carbon; vast source of CO2 and methane not included in global warming forecasts

The location from which the samples were taken: the peatland Stordalen mire, Abisko, Sweden.

Around a quarter of the ground in the northern hemisphere is permanently frozen. These areas are estimated to contain about twice as much carbon as the world’s current atmosphere. However, these permafrost soils are increasingly thawing out as the Earth becomes warmer. A University of Tübingen research team led by Professor Andreas Kappler, and Monique Patzner of the Center for Applied Geoscience, and Dr. Casey Bryce – now at the University of Bristol – has investigated the way this development affects the microorganisms in the soil. The results of their study have been published in Nature Communications.

The team worked on the assumption that thawing increases the availability of organic carbon for microorganisms to process, in turn releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. These gases accelerate the greenhouse effect, leading to further permafrost thawing in a vicious cycle.

Rising temperatures lead to collapse of intact permafrost soils, resulting in landslides and the widespread formation of wetlands. In this latest study, the team investigated what happens to the carbon trapped in the soil when the permafrost thaws out. “The organic material naturally present in the samples accumulated as peat over thousands of years. With permafrost thaw, microbes become active and are able to decompose the peat,” says Kappler. “We also know that iron minerals preserve organic carbon from biodegradation in various environments – and thus they could be a carbon sink even after the permafrost has thawed.” The reactive iron is present as a kind of rust and might be expected to trap the organic material in what the scientists call a “rusty carbon sink.”

Investigations in Sweden

The team investigated the storage potential of the rusty carbon sink at a permafrost peatland at Stordalen mire, Abisko, Sweden. There, samples of the soil porewater and drill cores were taken of the active layer along a permafrost thaw gradient. The research team examined how much organic material was bound to reactive iron minerals, how stable these Fe-C-associations are with permafrost thaw, and whether the microorganisms present could use the material as a source of food and energy. The team also carried out experiments in the laboratory in Tübingen.

The team found that microorganisms are apparently able to use the iron as a food source, thereby releasing the bound organic carbon into the water in the soil. “That means the rusty carbon sink cannot prevent the organic carbon from escaping from the thawing permafrost,” says Andreas Kappler. “Based on data available from elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, we expect that our findings are applicable for permafrost environments worldwide,” says Casey Bryce, who headed the study. 

The lead author of the publication, Monique Patzner, summarizes: “The rusty carbon sink is only found in intact permafrost soils; this sink is lost during permafrost thaw.” Now the researchers are seeking to find out how this facilitates greenhouse gas emissions and thus global warming. “It appears that the previously iron-bound carbon is highly bioavailable and therefore, bacteria could immediately metabolize it into greenhouse gas emissions,” says Patzner. “This is a process which is currently absent from climate-change prediction models and must be factored in.”


Monique S. Patzner, Carsten W. Mueller, Miroslava Malusova, Moritz Baur, Verena Nikeleit, Thomas Scholten, Carmen Hoeschen, James M. Byrne, Thomas Borch, Andreas Kappler & Casey Bryce: Iron mineral dissolution releases iron and associated organic carbon during permafrost thaw. Nature Communications, 


University of Tübingen
Faculty of Science
Center for Applied Geoscience – Geomicrobiology

Professor Dr. Andreas Kappler
 Phone +49 7071 29-74992

Monique Patzner
 Phone +49 7071 29-74715

Dr. Casey Bryce

Contact for press:

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Public Relations Department
Dr. Karl Guido Rijkhoek

Janna Eberhardt
Research Reporter
Phone +49 7071 29-76753
Fax +49 7071 29-5566




Warm Advent greetings

to all colleagues, cooperation partners, friends and associates

We wish all colleagues, cooperation partners, friends and associates a contemplative Advent season and as stress-free as possible last working days before Christmas.

Our Advent wreath was made this year by PhD students Sonja Thielen and Corinna Gall from mosses they collected themselves in the Schönbuch forest.
Thanks a lot for this beautiful present.



Rain Drop Experiment

An observation of how rain drops interact with natural surfaces, mosses and soil substrates

In a cooperation between the working groups „Invertebrate Paleontology and Palaeoclimatology (IPP)“, „Biogeology (BG)“ and „Soil Science and Geomorphology (SSG)“ we set up a new experiment to observe how rain drops interact with different natural surfaces, especially different moss species and soil substrates. The idea was developed by Sonja Thielen (IPP) and Martin Ebner (BG) and the experiment was conducted together with Steffen Seitz and Corinna Gall (SSG).

Out of a height of two meters we produced a rain drop with a pipette which falls down onto different moss species (Amblystegium serpens, Oxyrrhynchium hians, Eurhynchium striatum, Plagiomnium undulatum, Brachythecium rutabulum) and soil substrates (on four different parent materials of the Naturpark Schönbuch). The samples were sprinkled in an air dried state and in a wet state while the droplet impingement was recorded by a high speed camera with 2.500 frames per second. In the next step, we will analyse the slow motion films in regard to drop behaviour on different natural surfaces.



Veröffentlichung: 'Resiliente und nachhaltige Lebensmittelversorgung'

Herausforderungen der Coronakrise

Die Auswirkungen der Corona-Pandemie auf unsere Nahrungsmittelversorgung sind Gegenstand einer Schrift der Deutschen Akademie für Technikwissenschaften (acatec) und werden im gerade erschienenen IMPULS "Resiliente und nachhaltige Lebensmittelversorgung" beschrieben. Wir sind vergleichsweise gut davongekommen, weil Deutschland die meisten Grundnahrungsmittel zu hundert Prozent oder mehr selbst produziert. Doch Resilienz in der Lebensmittelversorgung heißt auch, dass sich unsere Landwirtschaft auf den Klimawandel einstellen und mit Blick auf den Artenschutz umweltfreundlicher werden muss. Die beteilgten Expertinnen und Experten, zu denen auch Prof. Scholten gehört, zeigen Perspektiven für eine nachhaltige Intensivierung auf - dieser Brückenschlag zwischen Ertrag und Nachhaltigkeit gelingt nur durch Erneuerung mittels Wissenschaft und Technologien. [Link zum Download]



Projekt MesiCrust

Jahresexkursion der BLAM nach Saas-Almagell

Die diesjährige Exkursion der Bryologisch-Lichenologischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Mitteleuropa e.V. (BLAM) führte uns ins Schweizer Kanton Wallis nach Saas-Almagell. Dort bot sich uns die Möglichkeit, gemeinsam mit Bryologen und Lichenologen aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz die einzigartige Moos- und Flechtenflora der Alpen zu erkunden. Unsere Tübinger Exkursionsgruppe bestehend aus Sonja Thielen, Verena Pietzsch (AG Nebelsick), Steffen Seitz und Corinna Gall (AG Scholten) ergänzte sich ganz hervorragend aufgrund unserer unterschiedlichen fachlichen Ausrichtungen (Biologie, Geoökologie, Bodenkunde und Geomorphologie).

Am ersten Exkursionstag lernten wir bei einer durch Herrn Martin Nebel geführten Tour viele verschiedene alpine Moosarten in Saas-Almagell kennen. Sehr erfreulich war auch ein kleiner Einblick in die heimische Fauna: Wir konnten ein paar Murmeltiere beim Entspannen beobachten. Der zweite Tag war stärker geomorphologisch geprägt. Wir machten uns in Eigenregie auf den Weg zum Schwarzberggletscher und untersuchten auf dem Rückweg die Biologischen Bodenkrusten auf der Lateralmoräne des Gletschers. Am dritten Tag wanderten wir unter Leitung von Martin Nebel und Michael Sauer von Saas-Almagell nach Saas-Fee und fuhren von dort aus mit der Seilbahn auf das 2989 Meter hohe Felskinn.

Die Exkursion wurde von Seiten der BLAM für die JungwissenschaftlerInnen mit 200 € gefördert, wofür wir uns an dieser Stelle herzlich bedanken möchten.



Publication: 'No-till Farming Systems for Sustainable Agriculture'

Challenges and Opportunities




Experiment on the interaction between mosses and soil in water absorption

BWP-sensor in soil surface and moss.

If you irrigate a soil substrate covered with moss, how is the water absorption working?  How much water is stored in the soil and how much in the moss? And are there any differences between moss species?

We, the PhD students Sonja Thielen (working group of Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleoclimatology) and Corinna Gall (working group of Soil Science and Geomorphology), try to answer these questions with a new experiment. During the irrigation process we measure moisture in the moss cover, soil surface and in 3 cm depth of the soil with a biocrust wetness probe (BWP). First, we observe the hydration process by adding six liters of water to each sample, and then we monitor the desiccation process over 72 hours. Afterwards we detach the mosses from the soil substrate and test the maximum water absorption of the different moss species. Furthermore, we took a soil sample with a core cutter and also test the maximum water absorption of the different soil substrates. In total we compare three soil substrates and four moss species.



Measuring Splash Erosion

After many years of research on splash erosion under vegetation influence, our group is still active in this exciting topic. After previous campaigns mostly measured erosion rates in the field with the Tübingen Splash Cup and vegetation characteristics manually, we are now breaking new ground. Together with our partners from the KIT in Karlsruhe and the University of Newcastle (Johannes Senn and Dr. Fabian Fassnacht), we are working on the determination of splash erosion, rain spectra, and tree traits using air- and land-based laser scanners. For this purpose, a concept paper was presented at the beginning of the year, whose assumptions are now being tested in the field. We have set up a new experiment in a forest area in Baden-Württemberg in which we calibrate modern measurement methods with classical splash measurements. The first results look very promising and we hope to report more about it soon.

Senn, J. A., Fassnacht, F. E., Eichel, J., Seitz, S., Schmidtlein, S. (2020): A new concept for estimating the influence of vegetation on throughfall kinetic energy using aerial laser scanning. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 45(7): 1487-1498. 

Link: doi: 10.1002/esp.4820




Das Landesmuseum Württemberg konzipiert derzeit eine Ausstellung zur Corona-Pandemie in der Region. Dazu werden Fotos von Objekten und Situationen gesammelt, die die gegenwärtige Situation besonders eindrücklich darstellen. Das Foto „Full House“, eingereicht von Steffen Seitz, wurde für die Ausstellung ausgewählt und ist bald im Museum der Alltagskultur in Waldenbuch zu sehen. Es zeigt Prof. Thomas Scholten in einer Online-Vorlesung vor zahlreichen Studenten, aber leerem Hörsaal auf der Morgenstelle. [Link]



EarthShape Annual Workshop

The annual workshop of the DFG-funded German-Chilean research initiative “EarthShape – Earth Surface Shaping by Biota” is currently held online via video-conferencing. Over the course of three days, all participating scientists will exchange their latest results. On the first day, PhD student Nicolas Riveras Munoz and PI Prof. Thomas Scholten presented the work of our subproject together with collaborators from Universidad de Chile, GFZ Potsdam, TU München and University of Copenhagen.

Please watch our video:



EGU 2020

„Sharing Geoscience Online“

EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online brings part of the activities of the cancelled EGU General Assembly 2020 online. From 4 to 8 May 2020 a broad number of scientific sessions show the diversity of the geosciences through various interactive presentations. Most are offered in a text-based chat system, but some sessions, short courses and debates are also shared by video conferences or on youtube. Everybody can join without registration fees.

The Soil Science and Geomorphology Group is active with many contributions and also available for questions and answers in the online discussions. Have a look at our contributions here:



Carina Becker et al.: Using multi-temporal Sentinel-2 data to predict chemical properties of the organic surface layer of forest soil

Laura Bindereif et al.: Synthetic sampling for spatio-temporal land cover mapping with machine learning and the Google Earth Engine in Andalusia, Spain

Zuonan Cao et al.: Soil and vegetation feedbacks on climate change in high mountain ranges of the Tibetan Plateau using near and mid-infrared spectroscopy (FT-NMIRS) in soil properties, phosphorus (P) as example

Corinna Gall et al.: Soil Erosion in Mesic Forests: How do Biological Soil Crusts affect sediment transport and surface runoff?

Philipp Gries et al.: Soil formation and biological soil crust development in glacier forelands of Svalbard (High Arctic)

Tobias Rentschler et al.: Volumetric soil quality modelling with machine learning in a diverse agricultural landscape in Andalusia, Spain

Nicolas Riveras Munoz et al.: Soil erosion controlled by biota along a climate gradient in Chile

Steffen Seitz et al.: Soil erosion monitoring at small scales: Using close range photogrammetry and laser scanning to evaluate initial sediment delivery

Ruhollah Taghizadeh-Mehrjardi et al.: Predicting and mapping of soil salinity using machine learning algorithms in central arid regions of Iran

A session on “Interactions between Geology, Biology and Climate at the Earth’s surface “ (SSS8.10) is organized by Steffen Seitz and Laurent Husson et al. on Friday, 8 May 08:30 – 10:15



Machine Learning Applications in Digital Agriculture

The journal Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395, IF 2.259) is currently running a Special Issue entitled "Machine Learning Applications in Digital Agriculture”. Prof. Dr. Thomas Scholten, Dr. Ruhollah Taghizadeh-Mehrjardi and Dr. Karsten Schmidt are serving as Guest Editors for this issue.

Machine learning—the scientific field that gives machines the ability to learn without being strictly programmed—can make agriculture more efficient and effective. An increasing amount of sophisticated data, from remote sensing and especially from proximal sensing, make it possible to bridge the gap between data and decisions within agricultural planning. On-demand representative sampling and modeling of useful soil information in an unprecedented resolution leads to an improvement in the decision-making processes of, for example, liming, irrigation, fertilization, higher productivity, reduced waste in food, and biofuel production. Additionally, sustainable land management practices are only as good as the data they are made of, and help to minimize negative consequences like soil erosion, soil compaction, and organic carbon and biodiversity loss. In the last few years, different machine learning techniques (e.g., artificial neural networks, decision tree, support vector machine, ensemble models, deep learning), different geophysical sensor platforms, as well as newly available satellite data have been tested and applied in precision agriculture. This Special Issue on Machine Learning Applications in Digital Agriculture provides international coverage of advances in the development and application of machine learning for solving problems in agriculture disciplines like soil and water management. Novel methods, new applications, comparative analyses of models, case studies, and state-of-the-art review papers on topics pertaining to  advances in the use of machine learning in agriculture are  particularly welcomed. For further reading, please follow the link to the Special Issue Website at:




Das S-Projekt des SFB 1070 RessourcenKulturen unterstützt Folding@home

Folding@home ist ein globales Projekt zur Erforschung von Mechanismen der Proteinfaltung. Dies ist für viele medizinische Themen wie Alzheimer, Krebs und aktuell das Corona-Virus von großer Wichtigkeit. Mit den starken Workstations des SFB 1070 für das maschinelle Lernen wird damit ein Beitrag zur Datenanalyse im Großrechnerverbund geleistet.



Vier Wochen in Leutkirch

Teilprojekt B02 bei Grabungsarbeiten im Allgäu

Vier Wochen lang war das Teilprojekt B02 zusammen mit Studierenden der Ur-und Frühgeschichtlichen Archäologie in einem Waldstück nahe Leutkirch im Allgäu tätig. Untersucht wurden dieses Mal zwei Grabhügel aus der Bronze-oder Eisenzeit (2./1. Jahrtausend v. u. Z.). Die Analyse von Probenmaterial soll weitere Details über das Alter der Totenmonumente liefern [Presseartikel vom 22.10.2019]



Beitrag Attempto 51

Die Black Box hat ausgedient - Maschinelles Lernen verstehen




Wie Boden Wissen schafft

Ein Film mit Prof. Dr. Thomas Scholten und Sascha Scherer

Bodenwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zur Entwicklung von Böden als zentrale Ressource für unser Verständnis von Geschichte und Gegenwart: Wie hat sich eine Bodenlandschaft vor dem Eingriff durch den Menschen entwickelt und wie hat der Mensch die Böden verändert? Geowissenschaftliche Analysen ermöglichen Aussagen über heutige und frühere Bodennutzungsformen. [Link]



4th International Workshop on Biological Soil Crusts

Corinna Gall and Steffen Seitz at the BioCrust4 conference in Australia

Successful presentation of current research on biological soil crust in mesic environments by Corinna Gall and Steffen Seitz at the BioCrust4 conference on Stradbroke Island in Australia. This workshop brought together leading scientists in biocrust research and was a great forum for the productive exchange of research ideas and to forge new collaborations. [Link]