Parameters governing the retention and movement of water and chemicals in soils are notorious for the difficulties and high labor costs involved in measuring them. Often, there is a need to resort to estimating these parameters from other, more readily available data, using pedotransfer relationships.
This work is a mini-review that focuses on trends in pedotransfer development across the World, and considers trends regarding data that are in demand, data we have, and methods to build pedotransfer relationships. Recent hot topics are addressed, including estimating the spatial variability of water contents and soil hydraulic properties, which is needed in sensitivity analysis, evaluation of the model performance, multimodel simulations, data assimilation from soil sensor networks and upscaling using Monte Carlo simulations. Ensembles of pedotransfer functions and temporal stability derived from “big data” as a source of soil parameter variability are also described.
Estimating parameter correlation is advocated as the pathway to the improvement of synthetic datasets. Upscaling of pedotransfer relationships is demonstrated for saturated hydraulic conductivity. Pedotransfer at coarse scales requires a different type of input variables as compared with fine scales. Accuracy, reliability, and utility have to be estimated independently. Persistent knowledge gaps in pedotransfer development are outlined, which are related to regional soil degradation, seasonal changes in pedotransfer inputs and outputs, spatial correlations in soil hydraulic properties, and overland flow parameter estimation.
Pedotransfer research is an integral part of addressing grand challenges of the twenty-first century, including carbon stock assessments and forecasts, climate change and related hydrological weather extreme event predictions, and deciphering and managing ecosystem services.
Overall, pedotransfer functions currently serve as an essential instrument in the science-based toolbox for diagnostics, monitoring, predictions, and management of the changing Earth and soil as a life-supporting Earth system.