Soil Erosion Risk Modelling in the Alps - ERKBerg as a Prototype of ERK2 for mountain zones III, IV and summering grazing zones


S. Schmidt; K. Meusburger; P. Panagos; C. Alewell

Project funded by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN/BAFU)

>more information (pdf)

weObserve: Integrating Citizen Observers and High Throughput Sensing Devices for Big Data Collection, Integration, and Analysis


L. Zweifel, C. Alewell

SNF Project Nr. 167333

Relevance of biological particles in atmospheric ice formation at moderate supercooling

C.Mignani; F.Conen; C. Alewell; C. Morris

Project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) N° 169620

Quantification of soil redistribution with fallout radionuclides FRN (239-240Pu, 137Cs and excess 210Pb)

Employment of radionuclides

C. Alewell;

MODERN is a transparent and easily adaptable model, to convert Fallout RadioNuclides (FRN) Inventories into quantitative estimates of both erosion and deposition processes.

WaTEM-SEDEM modelling of soil erosion and sediment yield

P. Borrelli; K. Meusburger; C. Alewell 

Project is funded by the University of Basel

Collaboration: European commission Joint Research Centre (Ispra)

Soils are the largest terrestrial reservoir of organic carbon and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. They underpin the functioning of all terrestrial ecosystems and are key to improve food security and soil carbon sequestration. In many areas cultivation lead to increased rates of soil degradation through soil erosion. Soil erosion still constitutes one of the major threats to soils in Europe and its spatial prediction still poses a challenge to the soil science community.

Today, the mainstreaming of geospatial technologies like Geographic Information Systems (GIS), satellite imagery and robust spatial interpolation methods are creating an enabling environment to make the necessary quantum leap in modelling both soil loss rates and sediment yield. In the frame of this project we work on methodologies including beyond the state-of-the-art techniques to:

  • integrate spatio-temporal variation of vegetation phenology in soil loss prediction models;
  • moodel sediment origin and transport dynamics;
  • narrow the knowledge gap regarding the lack of thorough approaches to upscale high-resolution input parameters to catchment- and regional-scale.

Sediment source fingerprinting by Compound Specific Isotope Analysis (CSIA)


P. Hirave; M. Lavrieux; K. Meusburger; A. Birkholz; C. Alewell

Project funded by COST and University of Basel

more information (pdf)

GHG emissions from peatlands under different land use


S. Paul; C. Alewell; J. Leifeld

Project funded by the Federal Office of the Environment (FOEN/BAFU)
Collaboration: Agroscope

Linkage between deposition and air-surface exchange of mercury in forest ecosystems

A comparative study between Switzerland and China

J. H. Huang; S. Osterwalder; C. Alewell; X. Feng

Project funded by SNF N° IZLCZ2_170176 /1, Sino-Swiss Science and Technology Cooperation (SSSTC) 2016.

Forest ecosystems in China and Switzerland exhibit distinct Hg deposition trends. While there is continuously increased Hg deposition in China, the deposition rate of Hg has been decreased since 1960s in Switzerland. In this study, we propose a collaborative project to investigate Hg biogeochemical behaviour in the remote forested ecosystems in Switzerland and China to understand how different chronologies of Hg deposition impact Hg biogeochemistry in remote forest ecosystems with a specific focus on atmosphere-land exchange of Hg.

We will characterise the profile distribution of Hg at both sites to reveal at which horizons the recently and historically deposited Hg tends to accumulate. Using isotope dilution technique, we will quantify the pool of exchangeable Hg in soils. We will perform the first ever research to quantify gaseous elemental mercury (Hg(0), GEM) fluxes above and below the forest canopy utilising REA and dynamic flux chamber at both sites, in addition to mass balance analysis of Hg. This approach will complete our understanding on Hg biogeochemical cycles in the terrestrial environments at Chinese and Swiss sites.

Mesocosm systems with litterfall, O layers and subsoils will be carried out to measure Hg reemission and leaching from soils at the Chinese and Swiss sites under manipulated precipitation, temperatures, biological activities and irradiance to examine how environmental factors affect Hg reemission and leaching from litterfall, O layers and subsoils at both sites.

We will also measure Hg isotope compositions of Hg in atmospheric Hg, wet precipitation, litterfall, soils and bedrock at both sites to assess Hg sources along the soil profile to gain more insights into historical changes in deposition sources at both Chinese and Swiss sites. In mesocosm systems, the magnitude and direction of Hg isotope change during incubation will be utilised to identify possible Hg reduction pathways in soils and furthermore to elucidate how the pathway of Hg reduction in litterfall, O layers and subsoils.

The proposed research will deliver quantitative information on the air-land exchange of Hg in forest ecosystems with distinct Hg deposition fluxes at the two study sites. This information is crucial for better understanding of global cycling of Hg in the environment, and has the potential in understanding how effective the implementation of the Minimata Convention will curb the process of recovery from Hg accumulation not only in China but also in Europe and North America.

For more details on S. Osterwalder's research on Hg evasion from boreal mires, please follow this link

Evasion of mercury from boreal peatlands

S. Osterwalder; J. H. Huang; C. Alewell; J. Fritsche; S. Åkerblom; M. Nilsson;  K. Bishop

Project funded by:

  • Swiss National Foundation (SNF); Doc.Mobility Grant #P1BSP2_148458
  • Swedish Research Council; Project Research Grant #2009-15586-68819-37
  • University of Basel

Emission of mercury from the peat surface to the atmosphere is an important factor in regulating the pool of mercury in peatlands and ultimately the loading of highly toxic methylmercury to surface waters. Our main goal was to describe, for the first time, seasonal patterns and to calculate annual totals of the Hg land-atmosphere flux. To test the hypothesis that Hg evasion plays a significant role in the process of Hg removal, we developed a relaxed eddy accumulation system for long-term and large-scale Hg flux monitoring. Furthermore, we used dynamic flux chambers to study controls on mercury cycling in peatlands as well as in industrially polluted areas in Switzerland.

Seasonal impact of vegetation on atmospheric elemental mercury dry deposition

L. Wohlgemut; M.Jiskra

SNF Project Nr. 174101

Combining biogeochemical and modelling approach to assess peatland restoration

M. Gross-Schmölders; C. Alewell; J. Leifeld;

SNF Project Nr. 169556

Radon-222 as relevant atmospheric tracer


F. Conen; L. Zimmermann

Project inserted in the frame of the ICOS-CH infrastructure (Integrated Carbon Observation System- the Swiss contribution to a European Research Infrastructure)

Cooperation: ANSTO Atmospheric Mixing  (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)