Professor Gerard Govers

Research Leader, Fund for Scientific Research, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
Gerard Govers

Gerard Govers is a professor in geography at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. He has been doing research on soil erosion and degradation for over three decades using field monitoring, experimentation and modeling to understand how degradation may transform soils and affect their functioning, both at the short and long time scale. His research was not limited to fundamental aspects of soils science. He also worked on the development of agricultural techniques designed to reduce soil erosion and conserve water, in collaboration with local farmers and the agro-technical industry: the results of this work have led to increasing awareness among farmers and changes in legislation promoting the conservation of the soil resource. At present, he is strongly engaged in research concerning the impact of soil erosion on biogeochemical cycles, including carbon emission.

Moving towards sustainable soil and water management in Europe:  mystical, mythical or practicable?

Soil problems are often addressed in medical terms: we assume that we can measure a soil’s health and therefore implicitly also assume that we can diagnose its problems and may be able to cure them through sound management. Alas, as is the case with human medicine, what we may call soil medicine is hampered by pervasive myths, both about what can be done and how it should be done.  In this talk we explore some of these myths, especially in relation to the effects of soil management on surface water, and we confront them with scientific fact. Can sound soil management reduce flooding risks? Which strategies may help to improve Europe’s water quality? What is the magnitude of the effect to be expected and over what timescale? Are there things we cannot achieve? While this talk does not intend to present an overall solution, the current state of the art does allow us to provide decision makers with valuable guidelines and identify areas where knowledge is still incomplete.