Berkeley Lab

Preface to the Special Issue of Vadose Zone Journal on Soil as Complex Systems

170 scientists from 13 countries represented many scientific disciplines—ecology, hydrology, geophysics, agriculture, soil chemistry, physics, microbiology, and modeling of soil–climate interactions.
More than 120 abstracts were published in the Conference Proceedings.

Scientific Achievement

The conference presentations and publications revealed that soil systems are not simply complicated, but fall under the definition of a complex system, and there is no general theory in the field of complex soil systems. New experimental methods and models are critically needed to quantify the integrated effects of physical, chemical, and biological soil processes to predict soil behavior for a variety of scientific and practical applications.

Significance and Impact

The Conference’s provided a motivating framework towards improved understanding of complex soil systems, as well as outlined the paradigm shift in soil studies critically needed illuminate interactions and feedbacks within the soil systems needed for the development of sustainable agriculture, soil and groundwater remediation, and responses to climate change challenges.

Research Details

The Conference presentations addressed fundamental concepts and advances in soil characterization, experimentation and modeling of complex soil systems needed to understand how soil physical, chemical, and biological components and processes influence the soil–plant–atmosphere system at multiple spatial and temporal scales. This knowledge is central in addressing scientific and practical applications, including those from managed and unmanaged environmental systems.


Faybishenko, B.; Hubbard, S.; Brodie, E.; Nico, P.; Molz, F.; Hunt, A.; Pachepsky, Y. (2016), Preface to the Special Issue of Vadose Zone Journal on Soil as Complex Systems, Vadose Zone Journal, 15(2), DOI: 10.2136/vzj2016.01.0005