Department 5: Processes on the Earth's Surface
As the interactive interface between atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, anthroposphere and lithosphere, the pedosphere, as the skin of the Earth, forms the existential basis for the human habitat. Just as the human skin can only be understood as a complex organ, the surface of the Earth must be understood as a complex system. Various processes and interactions influence the Earth's surface. Soils are the most important part of the human environment, but all over the world humans are now limiting the most important soil functions through use. On an international scale, overuse and the accompanying degradation of the resource soil are increasing. The development of soils is as old as the Earth's history, but at the same time, devastated and eroded soils do not renew on human timescales. Our scientists are studying the basic questions: How do soils develop from their geological source material, which characteristics and potential do they have, how are they degraded? Which material exchange processes exist at the critical zone interfaces of the Earth's surface to the lithosphere, the biosphere, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere. This research topic includes subjects such as soil physics and hydrology, soil mechanics and chemistry, geomorphology, and geobiology. New methodological and analytical ideas are applied, like isotope analysis, non-destructive and imaging procedures to recognize structures, and innovative modelling approaches. In Global Change Observatories, we analyse the role of and changes in the pedosphere at important locations on our planet. Widely differing scales in time and space, from laboratory experiments to areal description of soil communities, and modelling present great challenges to field, laboratory and computer techniques.