HoliSoils training course on soil sampling and classification

The EU Horizon project HoliSoils, in collaboration with ISRIC and the Thünen Institute, is calling for registrations for an upcoming training course on soil sampling and classification. This event, aimed at improving the harmonised monitoring of European forest soils, will be held from 25-27 September 2024, near Eberswalde (Germany), about 60 km from Berlin.

The workshop fee of €110 covers the full course, including two dinners and a lunch. Accommodation at Gut Sarnow is available at an additional cost of €99 per person per night, including breakfast.

Participants will gain hands-on experience in soil sampling design and classification, focusing on carbon stock calculation for greenhouse gas reporting. The comprehensive curriculum includes disturbed and undisturbed soil sampling, humus type classification, sampling of the litter layer, and soil classification according to the World Reference Base (WRB) classification system. Additionally, the course offers a valuable networking opportunity for professionals involved in European forest soil monitoring and those in the LULUCF (Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry) sector seeking to enhance their soil monitoring practices.

Interested individuals can register for the course via the following link: Registration Form.

For further details, contact the course organisers Nicole Wellbrock () and Vera Makowski ().

Meet HoliSoils’ researchers at the IUFRO World Congress 2024!

Let's meet at the IUFRO World Conference 2024

The 26th IUFRO World Congress will gather forest policymakers, scientists, and practitioners in Stockholm (Sweden) from 23 to 29 June 2024. The event will be the occasion to network with the forest stakeholders from all over the world, learn about the latest research and innovation, and discuss how to work together to achieve a sustainable future for forests and society.

If you’re attending the Congress, seize the opportunity to connect with researchers involved in HoliSoils and learn more about their work. Explore this list of sessions where you can gain valuable insights into HoliSoils research:

Optimizing tree density for creating resilient forests with climate change
HoliSoils researcher: Frank Sterck (Wageningen University & Research)
[Poster session 1] – S1.2 Forest health under climate change and air pollution
Time: 12:30 – 13:15, 24 June
Location: Poster 2

Digital soil mapping and modelling of forest soils in Europe
HoliSoils researcher: Laura Poggio (World Soil Information)
[Session T5.9] – Digital (soil) mapping as a suitable approach to generate spatial forest site and biodiversity data at different scales’
Time: 8:30-10:30, 25 June
Location: B6

Potential benefits for spruce – beech mixture vs. spruce monoculture from the belowground view
HoliSoils researcher: Karin Pritsch (Technical University of Munich)
Session: [Poster session 3] – T1.4 Climate Smart Forestry
Time: 12:00-12:45, 25 June
Location: Poster 18

Climate change induced risks for forestry and forest owners’ willingness to join the voluntary carbon schemes
HoliSoils researcher: Emmi Haltia (Natural Resources Institute Finland)
Session: [Poster session 4] – S4.4 Socio-ecological conflicts in forest management: risks of (not) adapting?
Time: 13:30-14:15, 25 June
Location: Poster 6

Session T5.12 | Experimental underpinning for projections of forest futures
HoliSoils researcher: Virginie Baldy (Aix Marseille University)
Time: 16:00-18:00, 25 June
Location: B3

Could continuous cover forestry on drained peatlands increase the carbon sin of Finnish forest?
HoliSoils researcher: Aleksi Lehtonen (Natural Resources Institute Finland)
Session: [Poster session 7] – Forest ecosystem services (Pot-7)
Time: 12:00-12:45, 27 June
Location: Poster 15

Explore the full programme of the event!

HoliSoils research featured in New York Times!

New York Times article screenshot

A new article on the New York Times explores how climate change is impacting invertebrates in soil, drawing on HoliSoils research.

Soils are teeming with life, but we still have not enough information on the rich biodiversity hosted in soil. However, as Leticia Pérez Izquierdo (HoliSoils researcher form the Basque Centre for Climate Change) highlights in the article, we are stating to open the “black box” of soil.

The article explores how changes in rainfall, droughts, and aridity affect soil invertebrates, including insights from a freshly published HoliSoils study, that was featured also in this HoliSoils post. During droughts the population of these invertebrates can shrink by 39%, but Phil Martin (Basque Centre for Climate Change) points out that this percentage is even higher under extreme conditions.

Learn more in the New York Times piece!

Changing rainfall patterns impact soil invertebrate biodiversity

Globular springtail Sminthuridae sp. on leaf litter.

Human destruction of natural habitats and climate change are probably reducing invertebrate populations in many regions. We still don’t have much information about threats to flying invertebrates, but we have even less information for those that live in the soil. This is despite the fact that soils are teeming with life. Did you know that they are home to over over 7 million invertebrate species – around one third of all invertebrates in the world?

A new study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, aimed to tackle this lack of information, by looking at how changes in rainfall caused by climate change affect soil invertebrates in forests. The study, which is the largest of its kind, compiled data from 46 forests around the world, finding that droughts reduce the number of soil invertebrates by around 35%, while increases in rainfall lead to increases of a similar magnitude.

Importantly, the international team from six different countries, led by researchers from the Basque Centre for Climate Change in Spain, found that the effect of rainfall changes depend on an animal’s size: groups like springtails and mites were more severely affected than smaller animals like nematodes or larger animals such as beetles.

Before this study, scientists had not made the link between the size of soil animals and the potential effects of environmental threats. These new findings have far-reaching implications for our ability to predict future responses of soil invertebrates to climate change as well as their potential impacts on soil functioning and health.

The variation in impacts between different groups is important because the species that are most affected by changes in rainfall include many detritivore species. These species help to improve soil health by breaking down the dead leaves that blanket forest floors. In the long term, reductions in their abundance might threaten ecosystem services like nutrient cycling that help to support tree growth in forests on which we depend for carbon storage and provision of wood for timber.

Another implication is that soil invertebrates in different regions will be affected differently. For example, forests in regions where climate change is causing an increase in droughts, like southern Europe and central America, will see decreases in the abundance of soil invertebrates. On the other hand, in regions where rainfall will increase, like northern Europe and North America, forest soil invertebrates can be expected to increase.

So what can we do to tackle the threat of changes in rainfall to soil invertebrates? First and foremost we should focus on combating the climate crisis by reducing our carbon footprints by flying less, eating less meat, and making our homes more energy efficient.

However, even if we manage to reduce carbon emissions, we still face dangerous climate change and so we need to change how we manage ecosystems. One promising way to reduce the impacts of droughts on soil invertebrates is by spreading mulch on forest soils, which acts like a sunshade to protect against hot and dry conditions.

To tackle the impacts of the climate crisis on soils we urge decision-makers to take the threats to forest soils seriously and to fund and promote adaptations to current management.

This article was written by Phil Martin (BC3 – Basque Centre for Climate Change).

Global Symposium on Soil Information and Data

Soil and icons

Hybrid Event

25-28 September 2024

Nanjing, China

The Global Symposium on Soil Information & Data (GSID24) will take place in Nanjing (China) between 25 and 28 September 2024. The event is co-organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Global Soil Partnership and the Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISSCAS) will be held in Nanjing, China, September 25-28, 2024.

This symposium will gather stakeholders, policymakers, researchers, and practitioners in an international forum to discuss the key role of comparable and reliable soil data and information in tackling global challenges, such as food security, climate change, and sustainable soil management.

The main goal of GSID24 is to foster the development and implementation of policies based on robust soil data, increasing the effectiveness of global initiatives to achieve sustainable development and climate resilience.

The deadline for abstract submission is 31 May 2024.

Find out more about GSID24 and how you can register!

Job opportunity in Climate-Smart Forestry at EFI

mountains and forest

The European Forest Institute is seeking a Researcher / Senior Researcher on Climate-Smart Forestry. The Researcher / Senior Researcher will participate in collaborative projects and research proposals of relevance to Climate-Smart Forestry.

The position focuses on improving and synthesizing the understanding of the development of European forest ecosystems – including soil – and their biodiversity and ecosystem service provisioning under different climate scenarios and climate-smart management options. The tasks include the development and application of tools and models (e.g., EFISCEN-Space model, Integrate+ mobile app.)

Deadline for application: 24 May 2024.

Read all the details about this position and find out how to apply!

Conserving the soil, one of the great challenges facing science and humanity


Originally published in The Conversation in Spanish.

Achieving the health of all European soils by 2050 is the challenge set by the Soil Monitoring Act, a directive proposed by the European Commission in July 2023. On 11 March, the European Parliament adopted its draft position on this regulation, which aims to promote soil conservation and restoration.

In the absence of final agreement, it seems that preserving soil health as one of the major challenges facing our society is finally starting to be taken seriously. The ambitious objective will be addressed by establishing a robust and coherent monitoring framework for the whole territory of the European Union.

Schematic cross-section of the earth. Soil is a very thin layer of about 1 m of continental crust, but its role is essential for life on the planet. MaxKario / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

For those of us who study soil this is welcome news. For the general public, however, the subject remains largely unknown.

The substrate that sustains us

Soil is that very thin layer of the lithosphere (1 metre or so) that supports all life in the terrestrial environment of the planet. It is the substrate where all the plants that make up the base of the trophic pyramid, in which humans occupy the apex, grow.

It is also the intermediary between the inert mineral world, the atmosphere (the gaseous layer surrounding the earth) and the biosphere, responsible for connecting the three and for life as we know it.

It also acts as a refuge for a large part of the planet’s biodiversity and is one
of our great allies in the fight against climate change, as it is the second
largest carbon sink after the oceans, with enormous potential to continue sequestering carbon.

A food web starts at trophic level 1 with primary producers such as plants. The soil is responsible for sustaining the production of this base trophic level. Roddelgado / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Why is it so important to preserve it?

Today, more than 60% of European soils are unhealthy. In recent decades, global population growth, unsustainable land management, climate change and extreme weather events have accelerated soil degradation.

This scenario means a gradual loss of the biosphere’s capacity to produce food, livestock feed and fiber. Other services directly provided by the soil, such as nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, pest control or regulation of the water cycle, are also undermined. This is costing the European Union at least 50 billion euros a year.

The problem is that, despite its importance, it is a fragile and practically non-renewable resource, as its recovery process is very slow. Once degraded, it takes centuries to recover. Therefore, conserving it is much more cost-effective than restoring it.

What challenges does science face?

We are faced with a huge black box that we need to unravel if we are to achieve the ambitious goals set out in the Soil Monitoring Act. We are not dealing with a system that is easy to study, but with a three-dimensional physical matrix of great biological and chemical complexity and high spatial heterogeneity, where thousands of species coexist, representing all kingdoms of life.

This complexity is compounded by logistical difficulties in the study of these subterranean ecosystems. These can only be overcome through the combined use of different methodologies (observational, experimental, models, inventories), which requires a lot of effort and interdisciplinary and international collaboration.

On the other hand, we still need to learn more about how they function in order to predict future responses to global change. Current prediction models represent the soil in a very simplistic way from a biological point of view. To realistically integrate its complexity, we need more data, taking into account the heterogeneity of this system.

Another challenge is to generate universal indicators of degradation, beyond those that have already been proposed, such as the ratio of carbon to clay. Again, research is needed to develop reliable indicators that can be used in decision-making.

Finally, it is urgent to study and design strategies to assist the soil and accelerate its recovery. This is a challenge for science, considering that the process of soil formation (pedogenesis) takes centuries to millennia.

This article was originally written by Jorge Curiel Yuste (BC3 – Basque Centre for Climate Change) on The Conversation.

Join the second Microclimate Ecology and Biogeography conference!

Conference logo

Between 26 and 29 August 2024, the second Microclimate Ecology and Biogeography conference will bring together a wide range of topics and experts on microclimate and its applications in ecology and biogeography. The conference will be held in a hybrid mode (in Helsinki, Finland and online).

The conference program includes invited keynote talks and presentations by the conference participants (talks and posters). A conference excursion, a welcome event, a conference dinner and a workshop will also be organised.

Learn more about this event and register now!

Enhancing SOC reporting: capacity building for developing countries through the HoliSoils project


Soil organic carbon (SOC) is not well addressed in the reporting and monitoring system in developing countries, affecting the global carbon budget and global climate change mitigate policy. To address this gap, the UNFCCC Secretariat organised a webinar in collaboration with HoliSoils project coordinator Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).  

The “Webinar on Soil Organic Carbon to Support National Greenhouse Gas Inventories from Developing Countries under the Enhanced Transparency Framework of the Paris Agreement” aimed to improve the technical knowledge of developing country experts on Soil organic Carbon and ensure the presence of a significant pool of soil experts in developing countries. 

Held between 16 and 18 April 2024, the online meeting was organised by Sabin Guendehou (UNFCCC secretariat and member of the HoliSoils Stakeholder and End-User Advisory Board). It featured approaches for estimating soil organic carbon, including a multi-model ensemble tool which simulates SOC and GHG fluxes, developed by HoliSoils project partners Elisa Bruni and Bertrand Guenet (French National Centre for Scientific Research). HoliSoils project coordinators Raisa Mäkipää and Aleksi Lehtonen (LUKE) provided insights into understanding, measuring and reporting on SOC in agriculture, forestry and other land-use. Marta Gómez Giménez (Remote Sensing & Geospatial Analytics, GMV Aerospace and Defense SAU, Spain), who works together with Bertrand Guenet on the MRV4SOC project, provided a conceptual approach for establishing MRV systems for SOC in developing countries.

The webinar gathered 371 participants from 69 developing countries across Africa, Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. Following the webinar, participants will be provided with additional technical support in two key areas: 

  • Calibration of soil model based on the tool presented during the webinar. 
  • Set-up and maintenance of Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) for SOC. 

A new webinar is planned for 2025 to focus on topics to be identified by participating developing countries. 

Download the presentations (PDF):

Have a look at the webinar agenda of the 2024 webinar! 

Check out the webinar recordings, available in English, French and Spanish!

Soil health monitoring requires multiple indicators and continuous measurements

Moss and mushrooms.

This post was originally published on Luke website.

A major new law on soil health in Europe is being prepared in the European Union, and scientists report that one of the proposed indicators is not fit for purpose.

Operational monitoring of soil carbon is vital to improve soil-based ecosystem services, as stated in the Paris Climate Agreement and other national commitments. As a significant proportion of Europe’s soils are unhealthy, new regulation is needed. The European Union is committed to improving soil health and is currently developing a new Soil Monitoring Law that will establish monitoring a set of different soil health indicators.

HoliSoils and Benchmarks researchers are actively contributing to the ongoing process on this European Soil Monitoring Law by testing one of the proposed indicators. A recent publication shows that the ratio of soil organic carbon to clay (SOC:Clay), proposed as part of the new law to measure soil carbon loss, is not a reliable indicator for soil health.

Single indicator and its threshold value does not adequately reflect the diversity of European soils

The joint publication by EU funded HoliSoils and Benchmarks projects assessed the feasibility of the SOC:Clay indicator by evaluating its performance using data from the pan-European 2009 LUCAS soil survey. The results were also compared with changes in soil carbon stocks reported by countries to the UNFCCC.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that the SOC:Clay indicator proposed by the European Commission in the Soil Monitoring Law does not adequately monitor soil carbon status. They demonstrated that the use of this single indicator and its proposed threshold value of 1:13 for all soils under different land cover, management practices and climatic conditions, cannot account for the diversity of European soils, management practices, and climatic conditions.

The results also show that the SOC:Clay indicator provides an inconsistent conclusion on the proportions of non-healthy soils identified by using the SOC:Clay indicator when compared to changes in soil carbon stocks reported by national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories. GHG inventories estimate changes in soil carbon stocks through repeated measurements or modelling. However, the proposed indicator, which would be based on the sampling and analysis of soil samples taken at a single point in time, may have therefore temporal limitations.

Soil monitoring indicators and tools need further development

The proposal for the Soil Monitoring Law has been discussed and voted on by the EU Parliament, after which it will be subject to further trilogue negotiations which will remain the responsibility of the next Parliament after the EU elections in June. Trilogue brings together the representatives of the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission and aims to reach a provisional agreement on the legislative proposal.

“The sustainable production of ecosystem services relies on healthy soils. To achieve this across Europe, as outlined in the Soil Monitoring Law, various actions must be taken in different regions. In addition to the indicators to be determined at the EU level, national tools are also necessary to monitor soil status and maintain soil health that meet the needs of different actors” says Raisa Mäkipää, Research Professor at Luke, HoliSoils project coordinator.

HoliSoils and Benchmarks researchers are committed to providing scientific input to the ongoing process of developing the new Soil Monitoring Law that best supports Europe’s important promise of healthy soils.