Simulating joint soil-landscape development in Holocene NE Germany

PhD project Marijn van der Meij on Soil-Landscape Development

Problem definition and objective

Soils and landscapes have long been known to develop in parallel. Landscape position is one of the main drivers of soil development, with different types of soils forming on different positions in the landscape. On the other hand, processes on a landscape scale, like distribution of soil material by erosion, are controlled by soil properties as texture and soil structure. These natural processes can be triggered and accelerated by external forcings as climate change and human impact, like deforestation and agricultural intensification.

My objective is to increase the understanding of feedbacks between soil and landscape development, under different external forcings. The study will be performed in an area in north-east Germany. This former ground marine complex is covered with a hummocky landscape, formed by melting of ice after the last Ice Age. This has resulted in a sloping terrain, consisting of local tops and depressions. The area has been used intensively for agriculture.

Figure 1: Example of clay cutans in parent material, study area Germany


Since 2009 one of those depressions, named CarboZALF-D, is intensively investigated by the institute of soil-landscape research from ZALF in Germany, which has resulted in a rich dataset. The combination of this dataset, together with historical maps and the possibility to derive erosion rates from sediments inside the depression, provides a unique testbed for studying joint soil-landscape development. Because of the complexity of soil-landscape systems, a computer model will be developed to simulate the development of the study area. Next to CarboZALF-D, an undisturbed reference area, located in a comparable setting, will be studied. Comparison between the two areas can provide new insights in the effect of humans on development of soils and landscapes in a intensively used area.

Funding PhD project:

Prof. dr. Michael Sommer, ZALF (Zentrum für Agrar-Landschafts Forschung) in Müncheberg, DE.

Start PhD. project: May, 2015

End PhD. project: May, 2019


please contact me if you need any information about my project (see contact details above).