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Vorlesung/Übung: Environmental Soil Physics (Theory part of UPT7, MSc) (1)

SS 2024

Frederic Leuther, Efstathios Diamantopoulos

Environmental Soil Physics is an interdisciplinary course that explores the fundamental principles and processes governing the physical behavior of soils within the context of environmental systems. The course comprises both theoretical and laboratory components, where the following topics are covered: soil hydraulic properties, soil structure, water flow in soils: i) macropore flow; ii) evaporation; iii) transpiration; and reactive transport of chemicals in soils. Special emphasis is placed on understanding soil physical processes in relation to the temporal and spatial scales, as well as their description using fundamental theories. Participation in both courses is mandatory.

Theoretical Part: Environmental Soil Physics

In the theoretical part, students will be describing the data that they produced in the laboratory part, with modern soil physical theories. The following theories will be analyzed:

  • Different models (empirical vs physically based) for describing Soil Hydraulic Properties.
  • Insights on using advanced imaging techniques and algorithms to characterize soil structure and identify soil constitutes (grains, particulate organic matter, pores, etc).
  • Main theory on simulating water flow in soils. Discuss limitations and theory extensions.
  • Main theories on describing root water uptake (macroscopic vs microscopic approaches).
  • Main theories and algorithms to simulate soil water evaporation. Effect of soil structure.
  • Main theory on reactive solute transport in unsaturated soils.


Course Objectives


  • Acquire advanced theoretical knowledge of the theories for describing water flow and solute transport in soils.
  • Deep knowledge on the data evaluation algorithms of each instrument.


  • Mechanistic modelling of the different experiments.
  • Data-model comparison and quantification.
  • Use of inverse modelling techniques.


  • Assess what is the right model for describing soil hydraulic properties.
  • Assess what is the right theory on describing water flow and solute transport for different soil types and land uses.
  • Identifying gaps and limitations in current theories. Evaluate environmental models with respect to process description.

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