Created on September 30, 2019
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Our favourite temperature logger is the TOMST TMS4, developed in the Czech Republic. It simulates a little plant and measures temperature just above, below and on the soil surface, while also monitoring soil moisture.
Thanks to contributions from far away locations like Antarctica, we currently have data from across a large part of the existing climatic conditions on the planet.
(The graph shows the range of temperatures and precipitation on earth, with the hexagons showing SoilTemp logger locations).
Land use effects
In the mountains like here in the Argentinean Andes, we study the effect of human land use - e.g. mountain roads - on soil climate. Often, we see conditions in the soil becoming more extreme when humans have altered the landscape.
Call for data
The database has still room for expansion, especially in tropical areas (here: the Everglades, Florida). So please get in touch if you have soil temperature measurements you'd like to share!
The role of vegetation
Vegetation buffers soil temperature. Open places, like here in Tenerife, can heat up dramatically on a sunny day, while conditions under these tufts of grass will be tens of degrees less extreme.
Topography is an important driver of local microclimatic variation. Living conditions on a slab of rock like this one in central France can differ dramatically, depending on it facing either south or north.
The coarse resolution of most available climate data (> 1 km²) does not take into account the small-scale variation in temperatures, caused by e.g. local topography, vegetation cover and land use.
Our biggest datasets come from northern Scandinavia, where we have been studying the effects of climate change on alpine tundra plants for years.
Soil temperature data typically looks like this, with winter temperatures to various degrees buffered by snow cover. This graph depicts a series of loggers (different colours) along an elevation gradient in northeast China.
Snow plays an important role as driver of the mismatch between soil and air temperature, effectively acting as an insulating blanket that keeps freezing temperatures out of the soil in winter.
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The database currently hosts already 6400 loggers from 49 countries!
What is SoilTemp about?
Bad news: we have been measuring the climate wrongly, at least from the viewpoint of our biodiversity...
Indeed: traditionally, weather stations measure the climate at 1,5 meter in the air, in open, controlled environments. Great for meteorology, yet far from relevant for many living organisms: species living close to, on or in the soil (e.g. herbs, insects, microbes...) experience climate conditions several degrees different from what happens in the air. Using this traditional climate to predict their behaviour is bound to go awfully wrong.
We are here to fix that mismatch. We are compiling a global database of climate data measured there where it matters for those groups of species: in and on the soil. With this data, we will finally be able to accurately predict the future of our biodiversity under climate change. Before it is too late to save it.