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Karl Ritz

Professor of Soil Biology, Faculty of Science

Contact

  • workRoom C22 Gateway Building
    Sutton Bonington Campus
    Sutton Bonington
    Leicestershire
    LE12 5RD
    UK
  • work0115 95 16288

Biography

I am a soil ecologist, convinced that soil is the most remarkable, complex and fascinating material on the planet.... as well as absolutely fundamental to past and future civilisations.

A passionate fundamental researcher, my professional life is devoted to developing a mechanistic understanding of the origins and functional consequences of the compositional and spatial organisation of soil communities. This work underpins the development of frameworks for understanding factors that regulate the activity of life belowground, systems to manage the biota appropriately, and incisive procedures for assessing and monitoring soil health.

One of my key concepts is that of soil architecture, and my work on visualising how soil systems are organised in space and time - both literally and conceptually - has revealed many new insights into how life belowground is organised, and the functional consequences of this for the earth system.... and all our futures.

I graduated in Agricultural Botany from the University of Reading in 1981, and completed a PhD in grassland ecology at the University of Bristol in 1984. I then moved to Scotland to lead research programmes at the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research (1984-7) and the Scottish Crop Research Institute (1987-2002). From 2002-14, I held a Chair at Cranfield University in the National Soil Resources Institute. I am currently Professor of Soil Biology at the University of Nottingham.

I am Editor-in-Chief of the high-ranking journal Soil Biology Biochemistry, and have held long-standing editorial roles with FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Mycological Research and the Journal of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, as well as some books, including 'Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics' and most recently 'Architecture and Biology of Soils'.

Expertise Summary

KEY EXPERIENCE:

  • Professorial role: - research, educate, represent, consult and advance my professional discipline across the piece, at institutional, local, national and international levels.
  • Broad experience of analysis and interpretation of soil biochemical, microbiological, faunal and biophysical properties.
  • Laboratory and field experimentation at scales from µm to Mm.
  • Lecturing, staff and student management and mentoring in both environmental sciences and core skills.
  • Group leadership.
  • Project management.
  • Editorial roles in peer-review journals and books.
  • Promulgation of soil systems science at all levels - lay, tertiary, research, applied, policy
  • Research portfolio funded by wide range of sources including: BBSRC, NERC, EPSRC, EU, Environment Agency, Scottish Government, Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Home-Grown Cereals Authority, Technology Strategy Board, Syngenta and others.

EDITORIAL

Editor-in-Chief:

  • Soil Biology Biochemistry (2017-)

Full/Chief Editor:

  • Soil Biology Biochemistry (2008-16)
  • FEMS Microbiology Ecology (2006-2008)
  • Mycological Research (2005-08)

Associate Editor:

  • Soil Science Plant Nutrition (2003-15)
  • Soil Biology Biochemistry (2001-07)
  • FEMS Microbiology Ecology (2000-06)
  • Encyclopedia of Soils in Environment (2002-04)

COMMITTEES:

  • NERC Peer Review College Panel Member (2014-17)
  • NERC Peer Review College Member (2011-13)
  • BBSRC Sustainable Agriculture Strategy Panel (Member, 2009-10)
  • JRC EU Soil Biodiversity Working Group (Member, 2008-)
  • ERFF Environmental Skills Audit Panel for UK (Co-chair for Lithosphere Sub-group 2008; Member, 2009)
  • NERC/BBSRC Soils Research Advisory Committee (Chair, 2006-08)
  • BBSRC Plant & Microbial Sciences Committee Network (Member, 1999-03)
  • BBSRC/NERC Soil Science Advisory Committee (Member,1998-03)

Selected Publications

Human societies have always been highly dependent upon healthy soils. This is because the earth beneath our feet underpins the environment we live in at local, national and ultimately global scales. Soils provide a platform to live upon and are fundamental to the provision of the majority of our food. They support all terrestrial habitats, store and filter water, cycle carbon and nutrients, are intimately involved in climate regulation, and even tell us about our past via the archaeology they hold.

Soils are also remarkable systems. They are extremely complex both in terms of the variety of their constituents and the way these are arranged in space, from nanometres to kilometres. Soils are dynamic and reactive entities teeming with a huge variety of life, supporting levels of biodiversity that almost defy imagination. The amount of living material belowground always matches or exceeds that aboveground, and there are typically tens of thousands of microbial species and many hundreds of other tiny organisms in a handful of soil from almost anywhere. These communities can be thought of as the biological engine of the earth, working to drive and regulate the majority of the key processes and functions which soils deliver.

But there's more to work than life - soils function by virtue of the way they are put together and the interactions that occur between the myriad of physical, chemical and biological components within. These all occur in the massively complex labyrinths of pore networks present in most soils. Throughout my life I've been exploring this fascinating 'inner space', the nature of the organisms that live in there, and how they make soil systems operate.

I spend much of my time studying and revealing new views of the normally unseen underworld, to understand the origins and consequences of soil biodiversity and how such knowledge can provide a means for us to manage, monitor and protect soils more effectively. And that's important - life on Earth depends upon life in earth!

You can find out about my research via my journal papers listed under the 'Publications' tab. Below is a my non-journal bibliography (excluding conference material).

BOOKS

  • Wall, D.H., Bardgett, R.D., Behan-Pelletier, V.M., Herrick, J.E., Jones, T.H., Ritz, K., Six, J., Strong, D.R. and Van der Putten, W.H. (2012). Soil Ecology and Ecosystem Services (Eds.). Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
  • Ritz, K. and Young, I.M. (2011). Architecture and Biology of Soils (Eds.). CABI, Wallingford, UK.
  • Jeffrey, S.R., Gardi, C., Jones, A., Montanarella, L., Marmo, L., Miko, L., Ritz, K., Peres, G., Rombke, J. and Van der Putten, W.H. (2010). Soil Biodiversity Atlas of Europe (Eds.). Commission, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.
  • Ritz, K., Dawson, L.A. and Miller, D. (2009). Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics (Eds.). Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands.
  • Ritz, K., Dighton, J. and Giller, K.E. (1994). Beyond the Biomass: Compositional and Functional Analysis of Soil Microbial Communities (Eds.). John Wiley, Chichester.

BOOK CHAPTERS

  • Ritz, K. (2015). Collection and identification methods for soil biota. In: Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas, ed. A. Orgiazzi and C. Gardi, JRC, Brussels.
  • Ritz, K. (2014) Life in Earth: A truly epic production. In: The Soil Underfoot: Infinite Possibilities for a Finite Resource. Eds. G J Churchman and E R Landa. Taylor & Francis, London, pp. 379-394.
  • Sakrabani, R., Deeks, L.K., Kibblewhite, M.G. and Ritz, K. (2012). Impacts of agriculture on soil quality. In: Environmental Impacts of Modern Agriculture. Issues in Environmental Science and Technology 34., ed. R. E. Hester and R. M. Harrison, pp. 35-56. Royal Society of Chemistry, London.
  • Ritz, K. and Van der Putten, W.H. (2012). The living soil and ecosystem services: Introduction and Synthesis. In: Soil Ecology and Ecosystem Services, ed. D. H. Wall, R. D. Bardgett, V. M. Behan-Pelletier, J. E. Herrick, T. H. Jones, K. Ritz, J. Six, D. R. Strong and W. H. Van der Putten, pp. 1-2, 86-87. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Van der Putten, W.H. and Ritz, K. (2012). From genes to ecosystem services: Introduction and Synthesis. In: Soil Ecology and Ecosystem Services, ed. D. H. Wall, R. D. Bardgett, V. M. Behan-Pelletier, J. E. Herrick, T. H. Jones, K. Ritz, J. Six, D. R. Strong and W. H. Van der Putten, pp. 63-64, 111-112. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  • Bartlett, M.D. and Ritz, K. (2011). Animals underground: the zoological generation of soil structure. In: Architecture and Biology of Soils, ed. K. Ritz and I. M. Young, pp. 71-85. CABI, Wallingford, U.K.
  • Ritz, K. (2011). Views of the underworld: In situ visualisation of soil biota. In: Architecture and Biology of Soils, ed. K. Ritz and I. M. Young, pp. 1-12. CABI, Wallingford, U.K.
  • Ritz, K. (2011). Microbes, habitat space and transport in soil. In: Encyclopedia of Agrophysics, ed. J. Glinski, J. Horabik and J. Lipiec, pp. 472-475. Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Barclay, A.D., Dawson, L.A., Donnelly, L., Miller, D. and Ritz, K. (2009). Soils in forensic science: underground meets underworld. In: Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics, ed. K. Ritz, L. Dawson and D. Miller, pp. 501-513. Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands.
  • Williams, A., Temple, T., Pollard, S.J.T., Jones, R.M. and Ritz, K. (2009). Environmental considerations for common burial site selection after pandemic events. In: Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics, ed. K. Ritz, L. Dawson and D. Miller, pp. 87-101. Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands.
  • Bartlett, M.D., James, I.T., Harris, J.A. and Ritz, K. (2008). The relationship between profile construction and casting behaviour of earthworms in golf course soils. In: Science and Golf, ed. D. Crews and R. Lutz, pp. 489-495. Energy in Motion, Mesa AZ, USA.
  • Ritz, K. (2008). Soil as a paradigm of a complex system. In: Complexity and Security, ed. J. J. Ramsden and P. J. Kervalishvili, pp. 103-119. IOS Press, Amsterdam.
  • Nunan, N., Young, I.M., Crawford, J.W. and Ritz, K. (2007). Bacterial interactions at the microscale - linking habitat to function in soil. In: Spatial Distribution of Microorganisms in the Environment, ed. R. B. Franklin and A. L. Mills, pp. 61-85. Kluwer, Dordecht.
  • Ritz, K. (2007). Spatial organisation of soil fungi. In: Spatial Distribution of Microorganisms in the Environment, ed. R. B. Franklin and A. L. Mills, pp. 179-202. Kluwer, Dordecht.
  • Ritz, K. (2006). Fungal roles in transport processes in soils. In: Fungi in Biogeochemical Cycles, ed G. M. Gadd, pp. 51-73. Cambridge University Press.
  • Ritz, K. (2005). Fungi. In: Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment, ed D. Hillel, pp. 110-119. Elsevier Ltd, Oxford.
  • Ritz, K. (2005). Underview: origins and consequences of belowground biodiversity. In: Biological Diversity and Function in Soils, ed. R. D. Bardgett, M. B. Usher and D. W. Hopkins, pp. 381-401. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Young, I.M. and Ritz, K. (2005). The habitat of soil microbes. In: Biological Diversity and Function in Soils, ed. R. D. Bardgett, M. B. Usher and D. W. Hopkins, pp. 31-43. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Ritz, K., McHugh, M. and Harris, J.A. (2004). Biological diversity and function in soils: contemporary perspectives and implications in relation to the formulation of effective indicators. In: Agricultural Soil Erosion and Soil Biodiversity: Developing Indicators for Policy Analyses, ed R. Francaviglia, pp. 563-572. OECD, Paris.
  • Ritz, K. and Griffiths, B.S. (2000). Implications of soil biodiversity for sustainable organic matter management. In: Sustainable Management of Soil Organic Matter, ed. R. M. Rees, C. A. Watson, B. C. Ball and C. D. Campbell, pp. 343-356. CABI, Wallingford, U.K.
  • Ritz, K. and Crawford, J.W. (1999). Colony development in nutritionally heterogeneous environments. In: The Fungal Colony, ed. N. A. Gow, G. Robson and G. M. Gadd, pp. 49-74. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.
  • Griffiths, B.S., Ritz, K. and Wheatley, R.E. (1997). Relationship between functional diversity and genetic diversity in complex microbial communities. In: Microbial Communities: Functional versus Structural Approaches, ed. H. Insam and A. Rangger, pp. 1-9. Springer Verlag, Berlin.
  • O'Donnell, A.G. and Ritz, K. (1997). Microbial dimensions to the functional implications of soil biodiversity. In: Functional Implications of Biodiversity in Soil, ed V. Wolters, pp. 23-26. Ecosystems Research Report No. 24, European Commission Directorate General, Sciences, Research and Development, Brussels.
  • Ritz, K. and Struwe, S. (1997). Methods and approaches in studying functional implications of biodiversity in soil. In: Functional Implications of Biodiversity in Soil, ed V. Wolters, pp. 17-21. Ecosystems Research Report No. 24, European Commission Directorate General, Sciences, Research and Development, Brussels.
  • Watson, C.A., Ritz, K., Younie, D. and Franklin, M. (1996). Nitrogen and soil biomass dynamics in ley/arable crop rotations. In: Rotations and Cropping Systems: Aspects of Applied Biology 47 pp. 43-50.
  • Coleman, D.C., Dighton, J., Ritz, K. and Giller, K.E. (1994). Perspectives on the compositional and functional analysis of soil communities. In: Beyond the Biomass: Compositional and Functional Analysis of Soil Microbial Communities, ed. K. Ritz, J. Dighton and K. E. Giller, pp. 261-271. John Wiley, Chichester, UK.
  • Crawford, J.W. and Ritz, K. (1994). Origin and consequences of colony form in fungi: a reaction-diffusion mechanisms for morphogenesis. In: Shape and Form in Plants and Fungi: Linnean Society Symposium Series No. 16, ed. D. S. Ingram and A. Hudson, pp. 311-328. Academic Press, London.
  • Newman, E.I., Ritz, K. and Jupp, A.P. (1989). The functioning of roots in the grassland ecosystem. In: Roots and the Soil Environment: Aspects of Applied Biology 22 pp. 263-269.

REPORTS AND OTHER

  • Ramirez, K.S., Bardgett, R.D., Fricks, B., Montanarella, L., Six, J., Van der Putten, W.H., Wall, D.H., Ameloot, N., Ayuke, F., Banwart, S.A., Bignell, D.E., Black, H.I.J., Bossio, D.A., Bruckman, V.J., Brussaard, L., Campbell, C.D., Campbell, K., de Carvalho, T.S., Cooper, J.M., Coutinho, H.L.C., Goulding, K.W.T., Griffiths, R.I., Harris, J.A., Hopkins, D.W., Housekova, B., Jenhe, W., Lemanceau, P., Lindo, Z., Murray, P.J., Muscolo, A., Ogram, A., Ritz, K., Rombke, J., Scow, K.M., deVries, F.T., and Wolters, V. (2012). White Paper on the First Open Meeting of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI). Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative, Colorado. http://www.globalsoilbiodiversity.org/ .
  • Burns, R.G. and Ritz, K. (2012). Introduction. Biochar: Virtual Special Issue. Soil Biology and Biochemistry Online: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/soil-biology-and-biochemistry/virtual-special-issues/virtual-special-issue-on-biochar/
  • Ritz, K., Corstanje, R., Deeks, L.K., and Whitmore, A.P. (2010). Review and initial assessment of what makes some soils more resilient to change and how this resilience can be conferred to other soils. Report SP1605 Studies to Support the Soil Strategy for England, Part D.
  • Ritz, K., Murray, P.J., and Harris, J.A. (2010). The role of soil biota in soil fertility and quality, and approaches to influencing soil communities to enhance delivery of these functions. Report SP1601 Studies to Support the Soil Strategy for England, Part A.
  • Herrmann AM, Nunan N, Ritz K (2009). Potential of visualisation methods to further our understanding of organic matter dynamics. Geochemica et Cosmochimica Acta 73, A526.
  • Bartlett, M.D., James, I.T., Harris, J.A., and Ritz, K. (2008). Estimating species richness of earthworms on golf courses and implications for innovating environmentally benign control methods. Acta Horticulturae 783, 475-480.
  • Black, H.I.J., Ritz, K., Campbell, C.D., Harris, J.A., Wood, C., Chamberlain, P.M., Parekh, N., Towers, W., and Scott, A. (2008). Prioritising biological indicators of soil quality for deployment in a national-scale soil monitoring scheme. Final Report, Defra Project SP0529.
  • Ritz, K. (2008). Routes to bioavailability: the spatial organisation of soil systems. Chemicals in soil: interactions, availability and residue formation. RAISEBIO - Marie Curie Early Stage Research Training Programme, Summer School, Leipzig.
  • Clarke, M.A., Creamer, R.E., Deeks, L.K., Gowing, D., Holman, I.P., Jones, R.J.A., Palmer, R.C., Potts, S., Rickson, R.J., Ritz, K., Thompson, T.R.E., Truckell, I.G., Vickery, J., Whalley, R., and Woodcock, B. (2008). Scoping study to assess soil compaction affecting upland and lowland grassland in England and Wales. Final report on Project BD2304. Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, London, UK.
  • Hallett, P.D., White, N.A., and Ritz, K. (2006). Impact of basidiomycete fungi on the wettability of soil contaminated with a hydrophobic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. Biologia 61: S334-S338.
  • Ritz, K. (2006). Book Review: Methods to Study Litter Decomposition: A Practical Guide. Edited by Manuel A.S. Graça, Felix Bärlocher & Mark O. Gessner. Mycological Research: 110, 122.
  • Jones, C.A., Basch, G., Baylis, A.D., Bazzoni, D., Biggs, J., Bradbury, R.B., Chaney, K., Deeks, L.K., Field, R., Gomez, J.A., Jones, R.J.A., Jordan, V.W.L., Lane, M.C.G., Leake, A., Livermore, M., Owens, P.N., Ritz, K., Sturny, W.G. and Thomas, F. (2006). Conservation Agriculture in Europe: An approach to sustainable crop production by protecting soil and water? SOWAP, Jealott's Hill, Bracknell. ISBN 978 0 9556565 0 7.
  • Ritz, K., Harris, J.A., Pawlett, M., and Stone, D. (2006). Catabolic profiles as an indicator of soil microbial functional diversity. Science Report SC040063/SR, Environment Agency, Bristol, U.K.
  • Ritz, K. (2006). Book Review: Underground: How creatures of mud and dirt shape our world by Yvonne Baskin. Environmental Conservation: 33, 365.
  • Ritz, K. (2005). Key threats to soil in Europe: Decline in Soil Biodiversity. In: Soil Atlas of Europe, Eds. A. Jones, L. Montanarella & R. Jones, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, p.113.
  • Ritz, K. (2004). Book Review: The Ecology of Soil Decomposition by S.M. Adl. European Journal of Soil Science 55, 631-632.
  • Ritz, K. and Young, I.M. (2004). Interactions between soil structure and fungi. The Mycologist 18: 52-59.
  • Boswell, G.P., Jacobs, H., Davidson, F.A., Gadd, G.M., and Ritz, K. (2003). A mathematical approach to studying fungal mycelia. The Mycologist 17: 165-171.
  • Hallett, P.D., Ritz, K., and Wheatley, R.E. (2001). Microbial derived water repellency in golf course soil: International Turfgrass Society Research Journal: 9, 518-524.
  • Griffiths, B.S., Ritz, K., Wheatley, R.E., Caul, S., and Clegg, C.D. (2000). Characterisation and consequences of soil microbial biodiversity. Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 1999/2000, 167-170.
  • Ritz, K., Crabb, D., Harris, K., Nunan, N., Wu, K., Crawford, J.W., and Young, I.M. (2000). Visualising the spatial organisation of soil microbial communities. Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 1999/2000, 163-166.
  • Ritz, K. (1997). Report on the 1997 SPM Meetings. BBSRC UK Soil-Plant-Microbe Newsletter 3.
  • Ritz, K. and O'Donnell, A.G. (1997). The UK Soil:Plant:Microbe Interactions Initiative. World Wide Web Pages. URL: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/~naes/bbsrc/SPMHome.html [now defunct].
  • Ritz, K. (1997). MICRONET: The SOAEFD Soil:Plant:Microbe Initiative. World Wide Web Pages. URL: http://www.scri.sari.ac.uk/micro/home.htm [now defunct].
  • Ritz, K. (1996). Book Review : The Significance and Regulation of Soil Biodiversity: Ed. by H.P. Collins, G.P. Roberston and M.J. Klug. New Phytologist 133, 377.
  • Ritz, K. and Burns, R.G. (1996). The 1996 SPM Annual Meeting. BBSRC UK Soil-Plant-Microbe Newsletter 2.
  • Ritz, K. (1995). The 1995 SPM Annual Meeting. BBSRC UK Soil-Plant-Microbe Newsletter 1.
  • Ritz, K., Crawford, J.W., Gilligan, C.A., Thornton, C., Grose, M., and Kleczkowski, A. (1995). Problems and opportunities relating to the analysis of fungal growth in soil. BSSS Newsletter 27, 11-13.
  • Ritz, K. (1994). Fungal growth in heterogeneous environments. Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 1993, 54-57.
  • Wheatley, R.E. and Ritz, K. (1994). Nitrogen transformations in cultivated soils. Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 1994, 81-84.
  • Crawford, J.W., Duncan, J., Ellis, R.P., Griffiths, B.S., Hillman, J.R., MacKerron, D.K.L., Marshall, B., Ritz, K., Robinson, D., Wheatley, R.E., Woodford, J.A.T., and Young, I.M. (1989). Global Warming: The Implications for Agriculture and Priorities for Research. Occasional Reports of the Scottish Crop Research Institute, Dundee.

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