Penn State Soil Characterization Lab
Soil is an integral part of ecosystem function. There are 29 million acres (11,735,884 hectares) of soil in Pennsylvania supporting: wetlands; forest lands; agricultural lands; urban lands; homes, businesses, and roads; our drinking and wastewater filtration. Without soil, these activities and functions would be much more difficult and in some cases even impossible, for soil is as precious to our lives as the very blood in our bodies.
Research in the Soil Characterization Laboratory focuses on people’s use of landscapes and the accompanying changes in soil function across the larger ecosystem the soil supports. Dr. Drohan’s research group addresses basic science questions, but also demonstrates how this new knowledge can be applied to improve land management and ecosystem stability.
Soil Characterization Lab News
NEW SPECIAL ISSUE: Hydropedology: The Last Decade and the Next Decade
March 16, 2015"Hydropedology is an emerging, interconnected branch of soil science and hydrology that studies interactive pedologic and hydrologic processes and properties in the Earth’s Critical Zone. It emphasizes in situ soils in the landscape, where distinct pedogenic features (e.g., structure, macropores, and horizonation), environmental variables (e.g., climate, landforms, and organisms), and anthropogenic impacts (e.g., land use and management) interact and dictate the fluxes and pathways of energy and mass flow in the landscape. Considerable synergies are expected through bridging pedology with soil physics, hydrology, and other related bio- and geosciences to enhance the integrated understanding of soil–water–landscape–ecosystem relationships. There are two fundamental questions of hydropedology: 1. How does soil architecture (ranging from the soil pore to landscape scales) control the partitioning of hydrologic fluxes (and related biogeochemical and ecological functions) in heterogeneous landscapes? 2. How does landscape hydrology (and associated transport of energy and mass) influence soil genesis, variability, and function across space and time?"
NEW PAPER: Rapid Delineation of Preliminary Ecological Sites Applied to Forested Northern Appalachian Landscapes
January 27, 2015The USDA-NRCS Soil Survey is working towards helping to identify Ecological Sites across the United States. An ecological site is a distinctive landscape with a unique vegetative potential. Our new research, led by former Post-doctoral Scholar Alex Ireland, derived a rapid, easily implemented methodology to identify Ecological Sites in forested regions of the Appalachians. See this article in the Soil Science Society of America Journal.
NEW PAPER: Dynamic Soil Property Change in Response to Reclamation following Northern Appalachian Natural Gas Infrastructure Development
December 16, 2014How do soils differ in the Northern Appalachians following conventional versus reclaimed shale-gas development? In this new paper published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal we examine physical, chemical and hydrologic changes on gas pads and pipelines that were part of the 1900's and 1970's gas booms, and the current shale-gas boom. Our results show that conventional sites do not exhibit significant differences in dynamic soil properties between disturbed and undisturbed soils while shale-gas sites show significantly higher (potentially root limiting) bulk density and lower SOC and N pools on reclaimed, disturbed soils.