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Sebastian Doetterl

Sebastian Doetterl
ETH Zurich | ETH Zürich · Department of Environmental Systems Science

Geographer; Soil Scientist

About

101
Publications
31,067
Reads
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1,761
Citations
Introduction
I am a Geographer with emphasis on Soil Science, Ecology and Biogeochemical Cycles. I am an Assistant Professor for Soil Resources at ETH Zurich's Department of Environmental Systems Science and group leader of the DFG funded Emmy Noether research group TROPSOC. I did my PhD on the effects of soil erosion on soil carbon dynamics at different temporal and spatial scales. I apply both experimental and modeling approaches in my research. My interests focus on the connections and feedbacks between different environmental cycles in soils (C-N-P Dynamics) and how human activities and Global Change influence these cycles and soils as a resource.
Additional affiliations
January 2019 - present
ETH Zurich
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
October 2017 - present
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft / Augsburg University
Position
  • Group Leader
Description
  • TropSOC focuses on tropical soil organic carbon dynamics along erosional disturbance gradients in relation to soil geochemistry and land use in the Eastern part of the Congo Basin.
October 2014 - October 2017
Universität Augsburg
Position
  • Research Assistant
Education
October 2008 - February 2013
Université Catholique de Louvain - UCLouvain
Field of study
  • Soil carbon dynamics at the landscape scale
April 2003 - May 2008
Universität Regensburg
Field of study
  • Geography, Soil Sciene

Publications

Publications (101)
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Agricultural land use is well known to have a major impact on altering physical and chemical soil parameters. Among these, soil organic matter (SOM) is recognized as an important parameter for soil fertility and must be considered for modeling global carbon fluxes due to its magnitude and high content of soil organic carbon (SOC) in many soils. For...
Article
Full-text available
Tropical deforestation for fertilizer-based agriculture has greatly increased in the last decades resulting in significant greenhouse gas (GHG; carbon dioxide (CO 2), methane (CH 4), and nitrous oxide (N 2 O)) emissions. Unfortunately , empirical studies on soil GHG fluxes from African deforestation hotspots are still limited, creating uncertaintie...
Article
Full-text available
Secondary forests constitute an increasingly important component of tropical forests worldwide. Although cycling of essential nutrients affects recovery trajectories of secondary forests, the effect of nutrient limitation on forest regrowth is poorly constrained. Here we use three lines of evidence from secondary forest succession sequences in cent...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
With climate and land use changes, it is becoming increasingly important to understand not only how much carbon is and will be stored in soils, but also how long this C will remain in soils. Estimates of C age can provide useful information about the timescales on which C will respond to such changes. It is generally accepted that the interaction o...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The net primary productivity (NPP) of tropical forests is an important component of the global terrestrial carbon (C) cycle. The lack of field-based data, however, limits our mechanistic understanding of the drivers of NPP and C allocation. In consequence, the role of local edaphic factors for forest growth and C dynamics is unclear and introduces...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Soil microbes are key drivers of carbon (C) and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems and their properties are influenced by the relationship between resource demand and availability. Aims: Our objective was to investigate patterns of microbial properties and their controls to understand whether they differ between soils derived fr...
Article
Full-text available
A central question in carbon research is how stabilization mechanisms in soil change over time with soil development and how this is reflected in qualitative changes in soil organic matter (SOM). To address this matter, we assessed the influence of soil geochemistry on bulk SOM composition along a soil chronosequence in California, USA, spanning 3...
Article
Rock‐derived nutrients such as calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are essential plant resources, yet depleted in highly weathered tropical soils, leading to nutrient limitation of productivity or other ecosystem processes. Despite this, substantial amounts of rock‐derived nutrients occur within wood, which raises questi...
Article
Full-text available
Carbon (C) mineralization and turnover in soil rely on complex interactions among environmental variables that differ along latitudinal gradients. This study aims to quantify the relationship between the variation in δ13C signature with soil depth (∆δ13C) and soil C turnover across a large geo-climatic gradient. Thirteen grassland sites were sample...
Article
The contribution of different adsorption processes to soil organic matter (SOM) stabilization and the consequences of the intensification of land use on the adsorption of SOM are not yet fully understood. Therefore, this study aimed to explore the adsorption of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in soils as well as desorption of organic carbon (OC) cau...
Article
Full-text available
Being the most common human-created landforms, terrace construction has resulted in an extensive perturbation of the land surface. However, our mechanistic understanding of soil organic carbon (SOC) (de-)stabilization mechanisms and the persistence of SOC stored in terraced soils is far from complete. Here we explored the factors controlling SOC st...
Article
Full-text available
Take-Home Message: Climate warming is transforming the Arctic at an unprecedented rate with previously barren and sparsely vegetated landscapes undergoing “greening”. We postulate that the observed vegetation changes throughout the Arctic are not only tied to warming, but to changes in soil properties and their impacts on plants and soil microbia...
Preprint
Full-text available
A central question in carbon research is how stabilization mechanisms in soil change over time with soil development and how this is reflected in qualitative changes of soil organic matter (SOM). To address this matter, we assessed the influence of soil geochemistry on bulk SOM composition along a soil chronosequence in California, USA spanning 3 m...
Article
Full-text available
The role of soil in the global carbon cycle and carbon–climate feedback mechanisms has attracted considerable interest in recent decades. Consequently, development of simple, rapid, and inexpensive methods to support the studies on carbon dynamics in soil is of interest. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) has emerged as a rapid and cost-effective me...
Article
Full-text available
Information on soil properties is crucial for soil preservation, the improvement of food security, and the provision of ecosystem services. In particular, for the African continent, spatially explicit information on soils and their ability to sustain these services is still scarce. To address data gaps, infrared spectroscopy has achieved great succ...
Article
Full-text available
Managed grasslands have the potential to store carbon (C) and partially mitigate climate change. However, it remains difficult to predict potential C storage under a given soil or management practice. To study C storage dynamics due to long-term (1952-2009) phosphorus (P) fertilizer and irrigation treatments in New Zealand grasslands, we measured r...
Article
Full-text available
Heterotrophic soil respiration is an important component of the global terrestrial carbon (C) cycle, driven by environmental factors acting from local to continental scales. For tropical Africa, these factors and their interactions remain largely unknown. Here, using samples collected along topographic and geochemical gradients in the East African...
Article
Full-text available
The Congo Basin's rapidly growing population still largely depends on shifting cultivation for both energy and food security. This nexus of population growth and ecological impact will continue to exacerbate landscape degradation in the coming decades. To quantify the effects of land-use intensity on soil nutrient stocks and the functional composit...
Preprint
Full-text available
Being the most common and widest spread man-made landform, terrace construction has resulted in an extensive perturbation of the land surface. Our mechanistic understanding of soil organic carbon (SOC) (de-) stabilization mechanisms and of the persistence of SOC stored in terraced soils, however, is far from complete. Here we explored the factors c...
Article
Full-text available
Stabilization of soil organic carbon (SOC) against microbial decomposition depends on several soil properties, including the soil weathering stage and the mineralogy of parent material. As such, tropical SOC stabilization mechanisms likely differ from those in temperate soils due to contrasting soil development. To better understand these mechanism...
Article
Full-text available
Soil macronutrient availability is one of the abiotic controls that alters the exchange of greenhouse gases (GHGs) between the soil and the atmosphere in tropical forests. However, evidence on the macronutrient regulation of soil GHG fluxes from central African tropical forests is still lacking, limiting our understanding of how these biomes could...
Article
Full-text available
The African Tropics are hotspots of modern-day land-use change and are, at the same time, of great relevance for the cycling of carbon (C) and nutrients between plants, soils and the atmosphere. However, the consequences of land conversion on biogeochemical cycles are still largely unknown as they are not studied in a landscape context that defines...
Article
Full-text available
Due to the rapidly growing population in tropical Africa, a substantial rise in food demand is predicted in upcoming decades, which will result in higher pressure on soil resources. However, there is limited knowledge on soil redistribution dynamics following land conversion into arable land in tropical Africa that is partly caused by infrastructur...
Article
Full-text available
While soil respiration is known to be controlled by a range of biotic and abiotic factors, its temperature sensitivity in global models is largely related to climate parameters. Here, we show that temperature sensitivity of soil respiration is primarily controlled by interacting soil properties and only secondarily by vegetation traits and plant gr...
Article
Full-text available
Soil organic carbon (SOC) stabilization and destabilization has been studied intensively. Yet, the factors which control SOC content across scales remain unclear. Earlier studies demonstrated that soil texture and geochemistry strongly affect SOC content. However, those findings primarily rely on data from temperate regions where soil mineralogy, w...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The exchange of the climate-relevant greenhouse gases (GHGs) at the soil-atmospheric interface is regulated by both abiotic and biotic controls. However, evidence on nutrient limitations of soil GHG fluxes from African tropical forest ecosystems is still rare. Therefore, an ecosystem-scale nutrient manipulation experiment (NME) consisting of nitrog...
Preprint
Full-text available
The African Tropics are hotspots of modern-day land-use change and are, at the same time, of great relevance for the cycling of carbon (C) and nutrients between plants, soils and the atmosphere. However, the consequences of land conversion on biogeochemical cycles are still largely unknown as they are not studied in a landscape context that defines...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Recent compilations of global soil radiocarbon data suggest that current Earth System Models underestimate the mean age of soil carbon (C). The discrepancy between data-derived estimates and model calculations might be due to an inadequate representation of processes that control C persistence in soils-especially in understudied regions. Here, we i...
Article
Full-text available
In the Lake Kivu region, water erosion is the main driver for soil degradation, but observational data to quantify the extent and to assess the spatial-temporal dynamics of the controlling factors are hardly available. In particular, high spatial and temporal resolution rainfall data are essential as precipitation is the driving force of soil erosi...
Data
Version 1.0 of the TropSOC database. Accompanying publication in ESSD currently under review, but available as a pre-print at: https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2021-73
Preprint
Full-text available
Heterotrophic soil respiration is an important component of the global terrestrial carbon (C) cycle, driven by environmental factors acting from local to continental scales. For tropical Africa, these factors and their interactions remain largely unknown. Here, using samples collected along strong topographic and geochemical gradients in the East A...
Preprint
Full-text available
While soil respiration is known to be controlled by a large range of biotic and abiotic factors, its temperature sensitivity in global models is largely related to climate parameters. Here, we show that temperature sensitivity of soil respiration is primarily controlled by interacting soil properties and only secondarily by vegetation traits and pl...
Preprint
Full-text available
Information on soil properties is crucial for soil preservation, improving food security, and the provision of ecosystem services. Especially, for the African continent, spatially explicit information on soils and their ability to sustain these services is still scarce. To address data gaps, infrared spectroscopy has gained great success as a cost-...
Preprint
Full-text available
Stabilization of organic carbon in soils (SOC) depends on several soil properties, including the soil weathering stage and the mineralogy of parent material. As such, tropical SOC stabilization mechanisms likely differ from those in temperate soils due to contrasting soil development. To better understand these mechanisms, we investigated SOC dynam...
Preprint
Full-text available
Tropical forests contribute significantly to the emission and uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). However, studies on the soil environmental controls of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from African tropical forest ecosystems are still rare. The aim of this study was to disentangle the regulation effect of soil nutrients...
Article
Full-text available
Tropical deforestation for fertilizer-based agriculture has greatly increased in the last decades resulting in significant anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Unfortunately, empirical studies on soil GHG fluxes (carbon dioxide (C2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O)) from African tropical deforestation hotspots are still limited, cre...
Preprint
Full-text available
Due to the rapidly growing population in tropical Africa, a substantial rise in food demand is predicted in upcoming decades, which will result in higher pressure on soil resources. However, there is limited knowledge on soil redistribution dynamics following land conversion to arable land in tropical Africa that is partly caused by challenging loc...
Article
Full-text available
Soil respiration is an important carbon flux and key process determining the net ecosystem production of terrestrial ecosystems. To address the lack of quantification and understanding of seasonality in soil respiration of tropical forests in the Congo Basin, soil CO2 fluxes and potential controlling factors were measured annually in two dominant f...
Preprint
Microbial processes are one of the key factors driving carbon (C) and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, and are strongly driven by the equilibrium between resource availability and demand. In deeply weathered tropical rainforest soils of Africa, it remains unclear whether patterns of microbial processes differ between soils developed from...
Preprint
Full-text available
Earlier studies have demonstrated that soil texture and geochemistry strongly affect soil organic carbon (SOC) content. However, those findings primarily rely on data from temperate regions with soil mineralogy, weathering status and climatic conditions that generally differ from tropical and subtropical regions. We investigated soil properties and...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Soil organic carbon (SOC) is a key component of terrestrial ecosystems. Experimental studies have shown that soil texture and geochemistry have a strong effect on carbon stocks. However, those findings primarily rely on data from temperate regions or use model approaches that are often based on limited data from tropical and subtropical regions. He...
Preprint
Full-text available
Abstract. Soil respiration is an important carbon flux and key process determining the net ecosystem production of terrestrial ecosystems. To address the enormous lack of quantification and understanding of seasonality in soil respiration of tropical forests in the Congo Basin, soil CO<sub>2</sub> fluxes and potential controlling factors were measu...
Conference Paper
Tropical ecosystems and the soils therein have been reported as one of the most important and largest terrestrial carbon (C) pools and are considered important climate regulator. Carbon stabilization mechanisms in these ecosystems are often complex, as these mechanisms crucially rely on the interplay of geology, topography, climate, and biology. Fu...
Article
Full-text available
A critical aspect of predicting soil organic carbon (SOC) concentrations is the lack of available soil information; where information on soil characteristics is available, it is usually focused on regions of high agricultural interest. To date, in Chile, a large proportion of the SOC data have been collected in areas of intensive agricultural or fo...
Article
Full-text available
Radiocarbon is a critical constraint on our estimates of the timescales of soil carbon cycling that can aid in identifying mechanisms of carbon stabilization and destabilization and improve the forecast of soil carbon response to management or environmental change. Despite the wealth of soil radiocarbon data that have been reported over the past 75...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Soil mineralogy plays an important role in stabilizing soil organic carbon (SOC) against decomposition by forming organo-mineral complexes with reactive mineral surfaces. However, few studies take the influence of parent material geochemistry on the development of C stabilization mechanisms into account. In addition, studies evaluating C stabilizat...
Article
Full-text available
A critical aspect of predicting soil organic carbon (SOC) concentrations is the lack of available soil information; where information on soil characteristics is available, it is usually focused on regions of high agricultural interest. To date, in Chile, a large proportion of the SOC data have been collected in areas of intensive agricultural or fo...
Preprint
Full-text available
One of the critical aspects in modelling soil organic carbon (SOC) predictions is the lack of access to soil information which is usually concentrated in regions of high agricultural interest. In Chile, most soil and SOC data to date is highly concentrated in 25 % of the territory that has intensive agricultural or forestry use. Vast areas beyond t...
Article
Full-text available
Radiocarbon is a critical constraint on our estimates of the timescales of soil carbon cycling that can aid in identifying mechanisms of carbon stabilization and destabilization, and improve forecast of soil carbon response to management or environmental change. Despite the wealth of soil radiocarbon data that has been reported over the past 75 yea...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
A significant part of the soil organic carbon (SOC) stock that is eroded in uplands is re-deposited and buried in colluvial settings. Understanding the stability of buried C could be of key importance for the global C cycle, but factors controlling the stabilization of this buried SOC pool are not fully understood, especially the role of soil miner...
Article
Recent findings suggest that soil organic carbon mineralization and stabilization depend to a substantial degree on the soil geochemistry and the degree of weathering. We hypothesized that this dependence can be translated to decay rate modifiers in a model context, and used data from the Merced chronosequence (CA, U.S.A., 100 yr–3 Myr), representi...
Article
Full-text available
Quantifying soil carbon dynamics is of utmost relevance in the context of global change because soils play an important role in land–atmosphere gas exchange. Our current understanding of both present and future carbon dynamics is limited because we fail to accurately represent soil processes across temporal and spatial scales, partly because of the...
Article
Full-text available
In the upper part of the solum of mineral soils, soil organic and mineral constituents co-evolve through pedogenesis, that in turn impacts the transformation and stabilization of soil organic matter (SOM). Here, we assess the reciprocal interactions between soil minerals, SOM and the broad composition of microbial populations in a 530-year chronose...