Research of the Soil Physics and Land Management Group

Research in the chair group Soil Physics and Land Management (SLM) addresses soil physical and hydrological processes at different temporal and spatial scales, and their central role in sustainable land and water management.

Our Mission:

To advance understanding of the impacts of land use and management on soil physical processes and related ecosystem functions that are essential for addressing global societal challenges of water and food security, sustainable land management, and climate adaptation.

Our Vision:

To develop and advance both fundamental and applied knowledge of soil physics and land management and the research skills of future scientists, through focussing our research on the interactions between land use and management and soil physical processes using innovative approaches that link different disciplines and engage stakeholders.

Our Objective:

To study transport processes of water, sediment and solutes over and through soils, particularly in relation to land use and management practices and how these affect soils, groundwater, crops, vegetation and related ecosystem services and stakeholders.

Our research areas:

  • Soil physics; flow and transport of water, heat, sediment and solutes
  • Ecohydrology; soil-water-plant interactions
  • Land use and management; factors affecting soil degradation, conservation and restoration

Significant results and highlights of the SLM research programme in recent years

Development of

1. A research field focused on the stochastic aspects of ecohydrology that affect natural and agro-ecosystems

2. Models

  • DESMICE (Desertification Mitigation Cost-Effectiveness), a GIS-based model to spatially assess short and long term costs and benefits of land management interventions  
  • Event-based Open LISEM model code to simulate hydrological and soil erosion at watershed scale

  • New online version of Soil-Water-Atmosphere-Plant (SWAP) model (, better integrating plant and soil physical processes, and solute transport (SWAP-ORCHESTRA)

3. Equipment

  • New sediment trap to measure sand spray, enabling gathering of samples that was not previously possible
  • Wireless embedded network system for real-time soil moisture sensing, facilitating easy roll out of sensors across study sites and watersheds to obtain data of high temporal and spatial resolution  
  • Polymer tensiometer, enabling measurement of pressure heads even in very dry soil conditions 

4. Other advancements

  • A multi-scale methodology to identify, prioritize, implement and evaluate soil and water conservation measures with farmers and other stakeholders, adopted by the UNCCD for further use around the globe

Prestigious projects in which SLM research staff has or has had an overall coordinating role:

  • RECARE  ‘Preventing and remediating degradation of soils in Europe through land care’, 11.1 million €, 28 European partners, 2013-2019,
  • CASCADE  ‘Catastrophic shifts in drylands: how can we prevent ecosystem degradation?’, 7.5 million €, 10 European partners, 2011-2016,
  • WAHARA  ‘Water harvesting for rainfed Africa: investing in dryland agriculture for growth and resilience’, 2.7 million €, 7 African and European partners, 2011-2016,
  • SoilCAM  ‘Soil contamination: Advanced integrated characterisation and time-lapse monitoring’, 3 million €, 10 European partners, 2008-2013,
  • DESIRE  ‘Desertification mitigation and remediation of land – a global approach for local solutions’, 9.1 million €, 28 partners from 5 continents, 2007-2012,

Learn more about us

More about us