In memoriam Em. Prof. Dr. Georges Stoops 1937-2022

Georges Stoops, Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Sciences of Ghent University in Belgium, and Honorary President of the Belgian Soil Science Society, passed away suddenly on January 20th 2022 at the age of 84, during a vacation with his family in the South of Spain. Georges was an excellent soil scientist of international standing, belonging to a generation of great soil micromorphologists. His outstanding activities contributed considerably to the development and worldwide use of thin section observations in soil studies.

Georges was born on August 12th 1937 in Antwerp, Belgium. He studied Geology at Ghent University, where he also obtained a PhD degree in Geology, in 1966, with a dissertation about soil development in the Bas-Congo region of the DR Congo. Georges began his professional career with a fellowship of the Belgian Institute for Encouragement of Scientific Research Overseas (BIBWOO). During that period, he participated in the first geopedological mission to the Galápagos Islands, organized by Prof. Dr. René Tavernier and sponsored by the Charles Darwin Foundation, Ghent University, the Soil Survey Centre (Ghent), BIBWOO and the National Fund for Scientific Research (NFWO). The soils of the Galápagos Islands would continue to fascinate Georges up to the end of his life. From 1962 till 1967 he was assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Agronomy of the Lovanium University in Kinshasa, DR Congo, where he began the mineralogical and micromorphological study of soils and weathering profiles that would become the subject of this PhD dissertation. In 1968 he was appointed at Ghent University, where he would teach courses on mineralogy and micropedology until he retired. He became Full Professor in 1987, and Emeritus Professor in 2002. During this tenure as professor, he was Director of the Laboratory for Mineralogy, Petrology and Micropedology. He was also the first Chairman of the Department of Geology and Soil Science (1993-2001), and Director of the International Training Centre for Post-Graduate Soil Scientists (ITC) (1989-2001). Georges was well respected by his peers, as well as by the many generations of MSc and PhD students, coming from all over the world, who knew him as lecturer or thesis supervisor.

Throughout his career, Georges had a strong interest in development cooperation. He was actively involved in several university cooperation projects, in Africa (Congo, Egypt, Rwanda, Tunisia, Zambia, Zimbabwe), Asia (Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Syria), and South America (Ecuador, Mexico, Suriname). He also frequently acted as guest lecturer for micromorphology courses at various universities (e.g., Bahia Blanca, Barcelona, Bratislava, Granada, Lleida, Tunis). He was a member of the Steering Committee of Development Cooperation of the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR-UOS), of which he was Vice-President in 1999-2002. As researcher with extensive overseas experience, he was also very active within the Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences of Belgium, of which he became a member in 1988, followed by terms as Director of the Section of Natural and Medical Sciences (1995, 1998) and as President of the Academy (1999).

Georges has devoted most of his career to the study of microscopic features of soils and regoliths. Within this discipline, he was for many decades one of the leading scientists. His exceptional expertise was based on a particularly good knowledge of microscopic techniques, and on the belief that interpretations can only rely on correct observations. He made extensive use of soil thin sections, and he was also one of the first to explore the possibilities of SEM techniques in soil micromorphology. His research activities in an international working environment made him acquainted with an exceptionally wide range of soil conditions, from weathering in the humid tropics to salt accumulation in desert areas, and from pristine volcanic islands to archeological sites. The results of his research cover many topics and were published in more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and 25 books. These studies have contributed substantially to the understanding of the genesis of arid and tropical soils. One of his main achievements is his contribution to the development of concepts and terminology for the description of soil thin sections that are currently applied worldwide. He was one of the driving forces behind the first international effort in this area, published as the Handbook for Soil Thin Section Description in 1982, with Peter Bullock as first author. This textbook was revised as a monograph entitled Guidelines for the Analysis and Description of Soil and Regolith Thin Sections, published by the Soil Science Society of America in 2003 (2021 for second edition). After becoming Emeritus Professor, he took the initiative to prepare, with two former students, an up-to-date textbook about the significance of micromorphological features in terms of soil genesis, with contributions by various international experts. This book, entitled Interpretation of Micromorphological Features of Soils and Regoliths, published by Elsevier in 2010 (2018 for second edition), can be considered as a first approximation of an inventory of micromorphological knowledge. During the same period, he also co-edited a volume about Archaeological Soil and Sediment Micromorphology, published by Wiley in 2017.

His internationally recognized achievements in the field of soil science, in part with special emphasis on his contributions to soil micromorphology and his merits for soil science education and research in developing countries, have been honoured by the Dokuchaev Medal of the All-Union Academy of Soviet Soil Scientists (1985), the Kubiëna Award of the International Soil Science Society (1992), and the Philippe Duchaufour Medal of the European Geosciences Union (2010).

Georges was active in several professional societies. He was twice Chairman of the Sub-Commission on Soil Micromorphology of the International Soil Science Society (1982-1985, 2001-2004), and Vice-President of the Soil Science Systems Commission of the European Geosciences Union (2002-2006). He was member of the editorial board of several international and national  journals, and he organized several congresses, training courses and workshops in Belgium and abroad. He remained active as researcher, author and lecturer until the end of his life.

Georges Stoops was a very social, amiable and generous person with an enormous sense of humanity. He was an outstanding scientist and researcher, who was always willing to share his knowledge, and who will be remembered by his many former collaborators and students. His death is a tremendous loss for the soil micromorphology community and for soil science in general.

We will remember him and miss him greatly.

Em. Prof. Dr. Eric Van Ranst

Ghent University, Belgium

Activities around the international day of soils 2019

In the beginning of December, soil scientists are waiting for all the soil-related activities as kids are eagerly looking forward to Saint-Nicolas.

Here a short overview of activities we are aware of:

Wednesday November 6th, 2019

Thursday November 7th, 2019

  • KVAB Thinkers programme: Fact finding ‘healthy soils’ – Brussels
  • Soils as records of Past and Present: the geoarchaeological approach. Focus on: is there time for fieldwork today? – Bruges

Wednesday December 4th, 2019

Thursday December 5th, 2019

  • Symposium on Soil Erosion: Connecting Science, Policy and Practice – Leuven

Friday December 6th, 2019

  • Symposium on Soil Erosion: Connecting Science, Policy and Practice (continued) – Leuven

Wednesday December 11th, 2019

  • 50th anniversary of the publication of the general soil map of Luxembourg – Ettelbruck (Luxemburg) (More info: pedologie -at- )


Thematic day 2018: Biogeochemical cycles and their role in the Earth system

What? Thematic day on “Biogeochemical cycles and their role in the Earth system”
When? November 21st, 2018
Where? Palace of the Royal Academies, Brussels

Description. Biogeochemical cycles are characterized by geo, i.e. physical and chemical transformations of an element on earth; bio, i.e. a cycle involves at least one biotic process; and cycle, because element species produced in one process are eventually consumed in a subsequent process. Biogeochemistry is, therefore, an interdisciplinary discipline that includes physical, chemical, and biological process that contribute to the functions and values of ecosystems on Earth.

Biogeochemical cycles fulfill key functions that are critically important to maintain life on Earth. These functions include: storage and use of radiation energy the Earth receives (CO2 fixation); and recycling of material, which allows the biosphere to use the same element over and over again. The elements studied in biogeochemical cycles depend on the scientific question to pursue, but in soil science we are merely interested in biogeochemical cycles because of the role they play defining the interaction between livings systems (e.g. plants, microorganisms) and the abiotic environment (e.g. soils, rocks). Major and minor elements are considered as essential or beneficial depending on their role in terrestrial biosphere functioning.

The interplays between elements (C, N, P, S and Fe, Mn, Si, Ca, Mg, K) are however are however central for understanding the role of biogeochemical processes on global balance of elements. The interdisciplinarity nature of biogeochemistry becomes obvious in various research lines, such as: catchment and river monitoring, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem functioning, biosphere-atmosphere exchange in a global change era, (global) nutrient cycles and their interactions, isotope systems, etc.

Keynote by Prof. Steven Bouillon (KULeuven) and Prof. Pascal Boeckx (UGent):
Congo basin biogeochemical cycles: linking terrestrial and aquatic processes’



We invite oral and poster submissions that studied biogeochemical cycles in soil systems, but highly encourage submissions that show interactions between the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere, thereby highlighting the key role of biogeochemical cycles for the Earth system. 

Please proceed to abstract submission and registration here.
Deadline for submission: October 19th, 2018.

SSSB member: 5 Euro
-Thematic Day only: 20 Euro
-Thematic day + Membership for 2019: 40 Euro

Programme Day of the Young Soil Scientist #DYSS18

Book of abstracts DYSS18

13.30 – 13.45:    Registration and welcome coffee

13.45 – 14.15:    Keynote speaker presentation

14.15 – 14.30: “Effects of different terrace protection measures on runoff, soil and nutrient   losses in Buberuka highlands and Eastern plateau agro-ecological zones of Rwanda” by Jules Rutebuka (UGent)

14.30 – 14.40: PechaKucha “The impact of vegetation changes on soil moisture over the Dry Chaco” by Michiel Maertens (KUL)

14.40 – 14.55: “Monitoring of spatio-temporal variability of substrate moisture on green roofs with different substrates depths and link to biodiversity” by Cédric Bernard (ULiège)

14.55 – 15.05: PechaKucha “A review of Mongolian soil characteristics and its environmental issues” by Tamir Enkh-Amgalan (National University of Mongolia)

15.05 – 15.20: “Stable isotopic (2H, 18O) quantification of root water uptake distribution of tree and crop in agroforestry context” by Francoise Vanoverbeke (ULiège)

15.20 – 15.30:  PechaKucha “Does phytoliths become the main source of bioavailable Si in highly weathered soil?” by Félix de Tombeur (ULiège)

15.30 – 15.50:   Posters presentation

15.50 – 16.20:   Coffee break and poster presentations

16.20 – 16.40: “Sorption of 137Cs on glauconite sands from the Neogene” by Yaana Bruneel (Belgian Nuclear Research Centre)

16.40 – 16.50: PechaKucha “Soil quality and microbial life: how sequencing can pierce the black box” by Caroline De Tender (Research Institute for Agriculture)

16.50 – 17.10: “Assessing the heavy metals pollution in soil and vegetable in Lanping lead-zinc mining areas” by Judith Deblon (ULiège)

17.10 – 17.20: PechaKucha “Study of the impact of century-old biochar on soil chemistry and nutrient cycling in soil-plant systems” by Victor Burgeon (ULiège)

17.20 – 17.40: “The effect of micro-topography on 3D electrical resistivity measurements for monitoring of soil moisture in potato fields on sandy soil” by Thibault Manhaeghe (ULiège)

17.40 – 17.50: PechaKucha “Soil processes controlling Si bioavailability by increased pH after biochar amendment” by Zimin Li (UCL)

17.50 – 18.00: Concluding remarks


Programme Thematic Day ’14

Soil-plant interactions in a changing world

DATE: Friday December 5th, 2014 (9:00 – 12:30)
VENUE: The Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium (Rubenszaal), Hertogsstraat 1 Rue Ducale, Brussels
REGISTRATION: see below or follow this link

» Download the book of abstracts here!

Soil, plants and chemistry

09:00-09:20 ‘Capacity of microorganisms to decompose organic carbon affected by an increasing content of reactive mineral phases in a podzolic soil chronosequence.’ Vermeire et al. (UCL)

09:20-09:40 ‘Calibration of δD n-alkane as paleo-climate proxy in the DeepCHALLA archive.’ De Wispelaere et al. (UGent)

09:40-10:00 ‘Effects of different types of fertilizers on phosphorus availability in a soil with low P content.’ Barbieux et al. (ULg)

 Coffee break (30 min) + poster session

 Soils and plant roots

10:30-10:45 ‘Can root distribution be related to soil water potential in an irrigated ‘Conference’ pear orchard?’ Janssens et al. (Soil Service of Belgium)

10:45-11:00 ‘A review of the effects of plant roots on concentrated flow erosion.’ Vannoppen et al. (KULeuven)

11:00-11:15 ‘Can electrical resistivity tomography offer us a dynamic view on what happens in the soil-plant continuum?’ Garré et al. (ULg)

11:15-11:30 ‘Differential hydrological strategies: a stable isotope perspective on trees water sources.’ Hervé-Fernández et al. (UGent)

11:30-11:45 ‘Improving macroscopic modelling of water and osmotic stresses on root water uptake.’ Jorda Guerra et al. (KULeuven)
11:45-12:15 Invited talk: ‘Water relations in the soil-plant system: what can we learn from functional-structural plant models.’ Lobet et al. (ULg)

Extra poster contributions still possible. (Poster guidelines: max A0, portrait)
Deadline 01/12/2014
In the framework of the international year of soils (IYS), poster contributions announcing activities for the IYS are encouraged next to the regular research posters.

2015 International year of soils