The 2015 Philippe Duchaufour Medal is awarded to Ingrid Kögel-Knabner for her fundamental and ground-breaking work on the dynamics and stabilisation of soil organic matter in soils from a basic-chemistry and organo-mineral interactions perspective.
The seminal works of Ingrid Kögel-Knabner have laid the foundations for a better understanding of the dynamic and stabilisation of soil organic matter in soils. She has successfully applied and combined a wide spectrum of sophisticated techniques for the elucidation of soil organic matter structure and turnover. In contrast with hitherto existing ideas Kögel-Knabner’s work provided evidence for the stabilisation of lipids and waxes in soils and especially of polysaccharides and proteins, major organic compounds of plant litter that are easily degradable. Furthermore, her research has revealed that nano-sized iron oxides are much more important for soil organic matter stabilisation than phyllosilicates. Her recent work on organo-mineral associations has been crucial for the molecular-level understanding of the formation of organo-mineral associations in soils and their general relevance is acknowledged in other disciplines (e.g. geochemistry). The implications of her studies have led to a new perception of soil organic matter formation, which is finding its way into the textbooks of soil science.
Kögel-Knabner is a scientist of exceptional capability and has established one of the major soil science laboratories in the world that is centered around solid-state carbon-13 nuclear-magnetic-resonance spectroscopy. Her laboratory has become a focal point of attraction for researchers world wide who want to take advantage of this method for their investigations. She has built an outstanding record of innovation and leadership. She has paved the way to a new soil science with a transdisciplinary focus both in fundamental and applied aspects. She is especially active in establishing soil organic chemistry as a central component in environmental and organic geochemistry. Her accomplishments and stewardship are reflected in a series of reviews and integrating papers, summarising a vast spectrum of aspects of this interdisciplinary approach and transforming them to a new quality of understanding.