Lead Soil Scientist
Deborah Bossio Lead Soil Scientist © Bill Marr

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Deborah Bossio

Lead Soil Scientist



Deborah’s academic roots are in Soil Biology and Fertility. She holds a M.Sc. and PhD in Soil Science from the University of California, Davis and is passionate about the pivotal role that soils play in supporting lives and ecosystems. She has published a wealth of research papers on the subject and emphasizes bringing soil science to practice, playing thought leadership roles in global initiatives including the Global Landscape Forum, the 4P/1000 research consortia and the Initiative 20x20.

Deborah came to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) from a top science leadership position at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) where she held the position of Director of Soil Research. Her career has focused on soil science for sustainable agriculture and development in Africa, Asia and the Americas for more than 20 years. Deborah has a wealth of experience in the field, including practical hands on experience working with communities facing the challenges of degraded soil health.

Deborah is the Lead Soil Scientist for TNC, where she is an integral member of the Global Lands team and an active member of the Cabinet of Lead Scientists, a collaborative group of Conservancy Lead Scientists contributing topical expertise to cross-cutting science issues for the organization. In this role she integrates new soil science expertise to support and advance existing climate, agriculture, forestry and conservation priorities and to better understand how we can scale our impact through improved soil management.

Deborah is the Lead Soil Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, where she is an integral member of the Global Lands team and an active member of the Cabinet of Lead Scientists, a collaborative group of Conservancy Lead Scientists contributing topical expertise to cross-cutting science issues for the organization. In this role she integrates new soil science expertise to support and advance existing climate, agriculture, forestry and conservation priorities and to better understand how we can scale our impact through improved soil management.

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Visit Deborah's Google Scholar Profile for a full list of publications.


Woldearegay, K., Tamene, L., Mekonnen, K., Kizito, F. & Bossio, D. (2018). Fostering Food Security and Climate Resilience Through Integrated Landscape Restoration Practices and Rainwater Harvesting/Management in Arid and Semi-arid Areas of Ethiopia. In: Rainwater-Smart Agriculture in Arid and Semi-Arid Areas. Springer, Cham, pp. 37–57.


Vaarst, M., Escudero, A.G., Chappell, M.J., Brinkley, C., Nijbroek, R., Arraes, N.A.M., Andreasen, L., Gattinger, A., Almeida, G.F.D., Bossio, D. & Halberg, N. (2017). Exploring the concept of agroecological food systems in a city-region context. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 0, 1–26.

Zomer, R., Bossio, D.A., Sommer, R. & Verchot, L. (2017). Replication Data for: Global Sequestration Potential of Increased Organic Carbon in Cropland Soils. Harvard Dataverse, 1.


Zomer, R.J., Bossio, D.A., Sommer, R. & Verchot, L.V. (2017). Global Sequestration Potential of Increased Organic Carbon in Cropland Soils. Scientific Reports, 7, 15554. 


Bousquet, F., Botta, A., Alinovi, L., Barreteau, O., Bossio, D., Brown, K., Caron, P., Cury, P., d’Errico, M., DeClerck, F., Dessard, H., Enfors Kautsky, E., Fabricius, C., Folke, C., Fortmann, L., Hubert, B., Magda, D., Mathevet, R., Norgaard, R., Quinlan, A. & Staver, C. (2016). Resilience and development: mobilizing for transformation. Ecology and Society, 21.

DeClerck, F., Jones, S., Attwood, S., Bossio, D., Girvetz, E., Chaplin-Kramer, B., Enfors, E., Fremier, A., Gordon, L., Kizito, F., Lopez Noriega, I., Matthews, N., McCartney, M., Meacham, M., Noble, A., Quintero, M., Remans, R., Soppe, R., Willemen, L., Wood, S. & Zhang, W. (2016). Agricultural ecosystems and their services: the vanguard of sustainability? Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Open Issue, part I, 23, 92–99.

Kizito, F., Lukuyu, B., Sikumba, G., Kihara, J., Bekunda, M., Bossio, D., Nganga, K.W., Kimaro, A., Sseguya, H., Jumbo, B. & Okori, P. (2016). The Role of Forages in Sustainable Intensification of Crop-Livestock Agro-ecosystems in the Face of Climate Change: The Case for Landscapes in Babati, Northern Tanzania. In: Climate Change and Multi-Dimensional Sustainability in African Agriculture. Springer, Cham, pp. 411–430.

Sommer, R., Mukalama, J., Kihara, J., Koala, S., Winowiecki, L. & Bossio, D. (2016). Nitrogen dynamics and nitrous oxide emissions in a long-term trial on integrated soil fertility management in Western Kenya. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst, 105, 229–248.


Zomer, R.J., Neufeldt, H., Xu, J., Ahrends, A., Bossio, D., Trabucco, A., Noordwijk, M. van & Wang, M. (2016). Global Tree Cover and Biomass Carbon on Agricultural Land: The contribution of agroforestry to global and national carbon budgets. Scientific Reports, 6, srep29987.


Verchot, L.V., Ward, N.L., Belnap, J., Bossio, D., Coughenour, M., Gibson, J., Hanotte, O., Muchiru, A.N., Phillips, S.L., Steven, B., Wall, D.H. & Reid, R.S. (2015). From Bacteria to Elephants: effects of land-use legacies on biodiversity and ecosystem processes in the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem. In: Serengeti IV: Sustaining Biodiversity in a Coupled Human-Natural System (eds. Sinclair, A.R.E., Metzger, K.L., Mduma, S.A.R. & Fryxell, J.M.). University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 195–234.


Mekuria, W., Noble, A., Sengtaheuanghoung, O., Hoanh, C.T., Bossio, D., Sipaseuth, N., McCartney, M. & Langan, S. (2014). Organic and Clay-Based Soil Amendments Increase Maize Yield, Total Nutrient Uptake, and Soil Properties in Lao PDR. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 38, 936–961.

Sommer, R. & Bossio, D. (2014). Dynamics and climate change mitigation potential of soil organic carbon sequestration. Journal of Environmental Management, 144, 83–87.


Hoisington, D., Johnson, N., Velarde, C.L., Mares, V., Mude, A., Nefzaoui, A., Noble, A., Rao, K.P.C., Serraj, R., Tarawali, S., Vodouhe, R. & Ortiz, R. (2013). An integrated agro-ecosystem and livelihood systems approach for the poor and vulnerable in dry areas. Food Sec., 5, 751–767.


Bossio, D.A., Erkossa, T., Dile, Y., McCartney, M.P., Killiches, F. & Hoff, H. (2012). Water implications of foreign direct investment in Ethiopia’s agricultural sector. Water Alternatives.

Herrero, M., Thornton, P.K., Notenbaert, A.M.O., Msangi, S., Wood, S., Kruska, R.L., Dixon, J.A., Bossio, D.A., van de Steeg, J.A., Freeman, H.A., Li, X. & Parthasarathy Rao, P. (2012). Drivers of change in crop–livestock systems and their potential impacts on agro-ecosystems services and human wellbeing to 2030: A study commissioned by the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme. ILRI.


Descheemaeker, K., Amede, T., Haileslassie, A. & Bossio, D. (2011). Analysis of gaps and possible interventions for improving water productivity in crop livestock systems. Experimental Agriculture, 47, 21–38.


Bossio, D., Geheb, K. & Critchley, W. (2010). Managing water by managing land: Addressing land degradation to improve water productivity and rural livelihoods. Agricultural Water Management, Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, 97, 536–542.

Dixon, J.A., Li, X., Msangi, S., Amede, T., Bossio, D.A., Ceballos, H., Ospina, B., Howeler, R.H., Reddy, B.V.S., Abaidoo, R.C., Timsina, J., Crissman, C.C., Mares, V., Quiroz, R., Leon-Velarde, C., Herrero, M., Blummel, M., Holmann, F.J., Peters, M., White, D., Qadir, M. & Szonyi, J. (2010). Feed, food and fuel: Competition and potential impacts on small-scale crop-livestock-energy farming systems. ILRI.

Herrero, M., Thornton, P.K., Notenbaert, A.M., Wood, S., Msangi, S., Freeman, H.A., Bossio, D., Dixon, J., Peters, M., van de Steeg, J., Lynam, J., Rao, P.P., Macmillan, S., Gerard, B., McDermott, J., Seré, C. & Rosegrant, M. (2010). Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems. Science, 327, 822–825.


Beintema, N., Bossio, D., Dreyfus, F., Fernandez, M., Gurib-Fakim, A., Hurni, H., Izac, A.-M., Jiggins, J., Kranjac-Berisavljevic, G., Leakey, R., Ochola, W., Osman-Elasha, B., Plencovich, C., Roling, N., Rosegrant, M., Rosenthal, E. & Smith, L. (2009). Summary for Decision Makers of the Global Report. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, Washinton, D.C.

Bossio, D.A. (2009). Livestock and water: understanding the context based on the “Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture.”

Ginkel, M. van, Sayer, J., Sinclair, F., Aw-Hassan, A., Bossio, D., Craufurd, P., Mourid, M.E., Haddad, N., Gurib-Fakim, A., Smith, L., Acikgoz, N., Avato, P., Bossio, D.A., Ebi, K., Goncalves, A., Heinemann, J.A., Herrmann, T.M., Padgham, J., Pennarz, J., Scheidegger, U., Sebastian, L., Taboada, M. & Viglizzo, E. (2009). Options to enhance the impact of AKST on development and sustainability goals.


Bossio, D.A. & Geheb, K. (2008). Conserving land, protecting water. Introduction.

Bossio, D.A. & Geheb, K. (2008). Conserving land, protecting water. CABI; International Water Management Institute (IWMI); CGIAR Challenge Program on Water & Food.

Bossio, D.A., Noble, A.D., Aloysius, N., Pretty, J. & Penning de Vries, F. (2008). Ecosystem benefits of “bright” spots.

Bossio, D.A., Noble, A.D., David, S. & Nangia, V. (2008). Land degradation and water productivity in agricultural landscapes.

Enfors, E., Gordon, L., Peterson, G. & Bossio, D. (2008). Making Investments in Dryland Development Work: Participatory Scenario Planning in the Makanya Catchment, Tanzania. Ecology and Society, 13.

Namara, R.E., Bossio, D.A., Weligamage, P. & Herath, I. (2008). The practice and effects of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Sri Lanka.

Noble, A.D., Bossio, D.A., Pretty, J. & Penning de Vries, F. (2008). Bright spots: pathways to ensuring food security and environmental integrity.

Trabucco, A., Bossio, D.A. & van Stratten, O. (2008). Carbon sequestration, land degradation and water.

Trabucco, A., Zomer, R.J., Bossio, D.A., van Straaten, O. & Verchot, L.V. (2008). Climate change mitigation through afforestation/reforestation: A global analysis of hydrologic impacts with four case studies. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, International Agricultural Research and Climate Change: A Focus on Tropical Systems, 126, 81–97.

Zomer, R.J., Trabucco, A., Bossio, D.A. & Verchot, L.V. (2008). Climate change mitigation: A spatial analysis of global land suitability for clean development mechanism afforestation and reforestation. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, International Agricultural Research and Climate Change: A Focus on Tropical Systems, 126, 67–80.


Bossio, D., Critchley, W., Geheb, K., van Lynden, G. & Mati, B. (2007). Conserving land - protecting water. In: Water for Food Water for Life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture (ed. Molden, D.). Routledge, pp. 551–583.

Craswell, E., Bonnell, M., Bossio, D., Demuth, S. & Van De Giesen, N. (eds.). (2007). Integrated Assessment of Water Resources and Global Change. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht.

de Fraiture, C., Smakhtin, V., Bossio, D., McCornick, P., Hoanh, C., Noble, A., Molden, D., Gichuki, F., Giordano, M., Finlayson, M. & Turral, H. (2007). Facing climate change by securing water for food, livelihoods and ecosystems. Journal of Semi-Arid Tropical Agricultural Research, 4, E-Journal.

Namara, R.E., Hussain, I., Bossio, D. & Verma, S. (2007). Innovative land and water management approaches in Asia: productivity impacts, adoption prospects and poverty outreach. Irrig. and Drain., 56, 335–348.

Zomer, R.J., Bossio, D.A., Trabucco, A., Yuanjie, L., Gupta, D.C. & Singh, V.P. (2007). Trees and water: smallholder agroforestry on irrigated lands in Northern India (Report). International Water Management Institute (IWMI).


Bossio, D.A., Fleck, J.A., Scow, K.M. & Fujii, R. (2006). Alteration of soil microbial communities and water quality in restored wetlands. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 38, 1223–1233.

Noble, A.D., Bossio, D.A., Penning de Vries, F.W.T., Pretty, J. & Thiyagarajan, T.M. (2006). Intensifying agricultural sustainability: an analysis of impacts and drivers in the development of “bright spots” (Report). International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Comprehensive Assessment Secretariat.

Penning de Vries, F. & Bossio, D.A. (2006). Smallholder land and water management.

Pretty, J.N., Noble, A.D., Bossio, D., Dixon, J., Hine, R.E., Penning de Vries, F.W.T. & Morison, J.I.L. (2006). Resource-Conserving Agriculture Increases Yields in Developing Countries. Environ. Sci. Technol., 40, 1114–1119.

Valentin, C., Bossio, D., Boonsaner, A., Guzman, M.T.L., Phachornphonh, K., Subagyono, K., Toan, T.D., Janeau, J.L., Orange, D. & Ribolzi, O. (2006). Improving catchment management on sloping land in Southeast Asia. In: France and the CGIAR: Delivering Scientific Results for Agricultural Development (ed. CGIAR Secretariat). CGIAR, pp. 68–72.

Zomer, R.J., Trabucco, A., van Straaten, O. & Bossio, D. (2006). Carbon, Land and Water: A Global Analysis of the Hydrologic Dimensions of Climate Change Mitigation through Afforestation/Reforestation ( No. 101). Research Report. IWMI.


Bossio, D.A., Girvan, M.S., Verchot, L., Bullimore, J., Borelli, T., Albrecht, A., Scow, K.M., Ball, A.S., Pretty, J.N. & Osborn, A.M. (2005). Soil Microbial Community Response to Land Use Change in an Agricultural Landscape of Western Kenya. Microb Ecol, 49, 50–62.


Bünemann, E.K., Bossio, D.A., Smithson, P.C., Frossard, E. & Oberson, A. (2004). Microbial community composition and substrate use in a highly weathered soil as affected by crop rotation and P fertilization. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 36, 889–901.

Fleck, J.A., Bossio, D.A. & Fujii, R. (2004). Dissolved organic carbon and disinfection by-product precursor release from managed peat soils. J. Environ. Qual., 33, 465–475.


Bossio, D.A., Horwath, W.R., Mutters, R.G. & van Kessel, C. (1999). Methane pool and flux dynamics in a rice field following straw incorporation. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 31, 1313–1322.


Bossio, D.A. & Scow, K.M. (1998). Impacts of Carbon and Flooding on Soil Microbial Communities: Phospholipid Fatty Acid Profiles and Substrate Utilization Patterns. Microb Ecol, 35, 265–278.

Bossio, D.A., Scow, K.M., Gunapala, N. & Graham, K1991.J. (1998). Determinants of Soil Microbial Communities: Effects of Agricultural Management, Season, and Soil Type on Phospholipid Fatty Acid Profiles. Microb Ecol, 36, 1–12.


Bossio, D. & Scow, K. (1997). Management changes in rice production alter microbial community. California Agriculture, 51, 33–40.


Bossio, D.A. & Scow, K.M. (1995). Impact of carbon and flooding on the metabolic diversity of microbial communities in soils. Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 61, 4043–4050.


Bossio, D.A. & Cassman, K.G. (1991). Traditional Rainfed Barley Production in the Andean Highlands of Ecuador: Soil Nutrient Limitations and Other Constraints. Mountain Research and Development, 11, 115–126.