The 2018 Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists Award is awarded to Matthias Vanmaercke for his outstanding research on understanding the rates and impacts of soil erosion and catchment sediment export at regional and continental scales.
Over the past eleven years, Matthias Vanmaercke has shown to be an exceptionally talented, prolific and inspiring researcher. This is also demonstrated by his impressive publication record, the various prizes and prestigious research grants he received, as well as his great dedication to the scientific community (including EGU).
Vanmaercke’ research focuses on understanding the rates and impacts of soil erosion and catchment sediment export at regional and continental scales. He mainly does this by meticulously compiling, integrating and analysing thousands of geomorphic measurements. Despite their value, many of these data are rather difficult to obtain and at risk of getting lost. His efforts to rescue these data and make them publicly available therefore provide a very important service to the scientific community. Moreover, his research has truly moved forward our understanding of soil erosion and its off-site impacts. His numerous papers have not only led to a better understanding of erosion and sediment yield across Europe and Africa, but also demonstrate a great innovation and fundamentally contributed to our ability to model these processes in relation to tectonic, anthropogenic and climatic drivers. In 2016, for example, he published an article in Earth-Science Reviews on gully headcut retreat. Apart from providing an impressive dataset on measured gully erosion rates worldwide, it is the first study to quantitatively demonstrate the very high sensitivity of gully erosion rates to climate change. This work is already seminal and the implications and methodological advancement of this work will strongly influence the agenda on gully erosion research during the following years.
Vanmaercke also collaborates in various research projects dealing with (the prevention of) erosion and land degradation in the global south. Here, too, his contributions are strongly appreciated by the scientific community. In November 2016, he received a tenure-track position at the University of Liège, where he is setting up a research group to continue and expand his research activities.
In conclusion, our globalised and rapidly changing world faces a very strong need to scale up our understanding of soil erosion and land degradation. Despite his young age, Vanmaercke is at the forefront in addressing this challenge. This is demonstrated by many of his highly influential publications. Given his current achievements, his originality and his great enthusiasm, Matthias Vanmaercke will surely become one of the leading scientists in our field and is a worthy recipient of this award.