SSS Soil System Sciences
The 2014 Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award is awarded to Markus Steffens for important contributions to soil science, particularly the estimation of horizontal and vertical heterogeneity in soils.
Markus Steffens is a highly promising young soil scientist. Early in his career, he proved the detrimental effects of overgrazing on steppe soil fertility, described the spatial behaviour of regenerating plant-soil systems and found evidence for a high carbon turnover in the clay-sized fraction, challenging the paradigm that the stabile organic carbon pool is associated with the clay fraction. For this work, he was awarded the prize for the best PhD thesis in Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences at the Technische Universität München. Consequently, his work on steppe soils is highly recognised in the soil literature, and a paper from his work on grazing impacts on steppe soils is currently the most cited paper in Geoderma.
As a postdoctoral student, he has developed a revolutionary new technique to analyse soil profiles. It is a fast, non-invasive technique to estimate the horizontal and vertical heterogeneity of a soil, and quantify almost all important biogeophysical and chemical properties with a high spatial resolution. With this new approach he is able to classify the diagnostic horizons of a complete mineral soil profile. This new technique will significantly improve the qualitative and quantitative analysis of soil profiles at the pedon scale. He is a worthy recipient of the Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award.