The staff of the TSU laboratory Bio-Geo-Clim is creating an image bank that will include all the main soil types represented in the latitudinal profile of Western Siberia, from steppes to tundra. A new information base will help researchers reconstruct past ecosystem changes in the macroregion and predict future soil transformations.
The fundamental knowledge gained during the new project will help build models of the dynamics of soil changes - to predict how soil fertility will change in a given territory, or which areas will be at risk of degradation.
Soil formation is a process of joint influence of climate, topography, living organisms, rocks, and time. Traces of this activity are stored in soils and are visible on sections and fractures. Digital soil counterparts collected in an image bank and supported by laboratory studies of the age and composition of morphons will help us to reconstruct the picture of changes that occurred in Western Siberia in the Holocene (the last 11,000 years) and at the end of the Late Pleistocene (11,000-24,000 years ago). For example, you can see the fires of the past, their frequency, and understand whether there was a forest, river, pasture, or arable land in a given area. Characteristic soil changes will help to understand how the climate was at the stage of its formation and how the environment changed. Using these approaches, researchers are trying to understand whether the climate alone has been responsible for environmental variability in recent millennia.
In the process of creating the new information base, researchers will test several scientific hypotheses, for example, that the smallest soil morphological elements are the last carriers of memory of past situations.
As Sergey Loyko notes, the trends identified are important not only for understanding the past but also for predicting the future development of soils. Their new states also appear from the “birth” of new morphons. For example, the beginning of the swamping process can be judged by the appearance of a peat horizon, and the loss of soil fertility will begin with the disappearance of through-pores.
The new project has the website http://photosoil.tsu.ru/, which hosts some database elements that are now available for free viewing.