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Vol. 32 No. 2
March-April 2010

Conference Call | Reports from recent conferences and symposia 
See also www.iupac.org/indexes/Conferences

Soil Science

by Jianming Xu

The International Symposium of Molecular Environmental Soil Science at the Interfaces in the Earth’s Critical Zone (ISMESS 2009), which was IUPAC sponsored, was held on 10–14 October 2009 at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. Two hundred and sixty-six participants from 21 countries attended the conference.

Zhejiang University, founded in 1897, is a key comprehensive university whose academic and research endeavors cover eleven disciplines. Soil Science at Zhejiang University is one of China’s National Key Disciplines.

Opening ceremony at the International Symposium of Molecular Environmental Soil Science at the Interfaces in the Earth’s Critical Zone.

This was the first time that an international symposium on the subject was held in China. The conference identified, and built on, the need to view and understand the critical zone at the molecular level. It provided a novel interface that facilitated the integration of contributions from traditionally separate disciplines. In addition, the symposium added a molecular and nanoparticle dimension to a field of endeavor that has traditionally been viewed on a different scale (dimension).

This symposium provided a forum for the interactions and communication of soil chemists, mineralogists, microbiologists, and physicists with allied scientists, including pure chemists, biologists, environmental scientists, ecologists, and ecotoxicologists. This symposium helped identify gaps in knowledge and future research directions.

The scientific program featured 2 plenary lecturers, 19 invited lecturers, 29 oral presentations, and 65 poster presentations. Donald L. Sparks, University of Delaware, USA, delivered the first plenary lecture on the topic of “Advances in the Use of Synchrotron Radiation to Elucidate Environmental Interfacial Reaction Processes and Mechanisms in the Earth’s Critical Zone.” The second plenary lecture, on “Microbial Role in Global Biogeochemical Cycling of Metals and Metalloids at the Interfaces in the Earth’s Critical Zone,” was delivered by Geoffrey M. Gadd, University of Dundee, UK.

The main symposium topics were as follows:

  • The Role of Mineral Colloids in Carbon Turnover and Sequestration and the Impact on Climate Change
  • Biogeochemical Interfacial Reactions and the Transformation, Transport and Fate of Vital and Toxic Elements
  • Anthropogenic Organics, Crop Protection, and Ecotoxicology
    Environmental Nanoparticles: Distribution, Formation, Transformation, Structural and Surface Chemistry, and Biogeochemical and Ecological Impacts
  • Environmental Processes and Ecosystem Health

A special session was dedicated to the late Pan Ming Huang, cochair of ISMESS 2009, for his great contributions to the symposium and to the advancement of soil and environmental sciences.

Major knowledge shared during the symposium included the following:

  1. The concept of the critical zone was highlighted, which is a system of coupled chemical, biological, physical, and geological processes operating together to support life at the Earth’s surface.
  2. Further efforts require scientists to cross disciplines for the study of the interactive processes in the critical zone and their impact on the globe and humankind, ranging in scale from the environmental mineral-organism-humus-water-air interfaces.
  3. Discussion on carbon turnover furthered understanding of the role of mineral colloids in carbon transformation, dynamics, and sequestration and their impact on climate change in the environment.
  4. Microbes participate in important natural biogeochemical processes relating to metal-mineral transformations, element cycling, bioweathering, biocorrosion, bioremediation, revegetation, phytoremediation, and containment of pollution in the terrestrial critical zone
  5. The importance of nanoscience as a new frontier in soil science was emphasized.
  6. Some new advanced methods and approaches (e.g. synchrotron radiation, SIP-DNA) have improved our understanding of the environmental interfacial reaction processes and mechanisms in the Earth’s critical zone.

Two challenging areas were also identified: 1) How, and to what extent, are the interfacial reaction processes affected by environmental nanoparticles and by the soil microbes, especial at the molecular level? and 2) What are the physical, chemical, and biological interfacial interactions at the molecular level that define the fate of ions, chemicals, and microbes as they are transported through soil systems?

Conference participants gather for a group portrait at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.

A book entitled Molecular Environmental Soil Science at the Interfaces in the Earth’s Critical Zone was published jointly by Springer Verlag and Zhejiang University Press. The book, edited by Jianming Xu and Pan Ming Huang, contained 108 accepted, extended abstracts. Another book composed of accepted papers by plenary and invited lecturers will be prepared and published by Springer Verlag. A special issue composed of accepted papers by other participants will also be prepared and published by the Journal of Soils and Sediments.

At the closing ceremony, IUPAC Representative Nicola Senesi, introduced the last program and discussed the work of IUPAC. He stated that the symposium was a great success.

More information and full details of the symposium program are available on the symposium website.

Jianming Xu <jmxu@zju.edu.cn> is director of and professor in the Institute of Soil and Water Resources and Environmental Science, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.


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