Postdoc opportunity in Microbial Ecology of Forest Soils

Mushrooms in a forest.

The Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology of the Institute of Microbiology of the Czech Academy of Sciences is looking for a motivated postdoctoral fellow to join the international consortium of HoliSoils, an H2020 project that explores the effects of forest management on ecosystem processes such as greenhouse gas fluxes, C storage and biodiversity preservation. The selected candidate will be involved in the study of the structural and functional response of the soil microbiome to forest management, disturbances and global change across Europe and will have the opportunity to collaborate with leading groups in this research field.

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

Take a walk in the Saxon forest… and discover forest soil test experiments!

In the Eisenstraßenmoor in Saxony, Germany, forest visitors now have access to information about peatlands and can discover one of the  HoliSoils test sites. “The Eisenstraßenmoor used to be a drained bog. This means that centuries ago, the foresters simply drained the water and directed it away from the bog to make the area suitable for tree growth and timber production”, says Clemens Weiser, head of the local forest enterprise. “This deteriorated the condition of the bog, causing the entire peat body to decay. As a result, significant CO2 emissions occurred due to the dryness, similar to how a compost pile at home decomposes.” Clemens and HoliSoils partner Cornelius Oertel and his team from The Thünen Institute for Forest Ecosystems want to reverse this process as part of their activities in the project.

Peatlands are an important carbon storage. Despite covering only 3% of the land area, they store twice as much carbon. Aiming at retaining water in the bog and encouraging its growth, the project team reconnected the catchment area, allowing water to flow back into the bog. They also closed all the ditches that were dug by foresters in the past, using proper peat plugs, to ensure the water stays in the bog. “Here, we want to measure CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions around the clock using automated chamber systems”, emphasises Cornelius Oertel.

The 5-meter-high measuring towers record greenhouse gas fluxes from the peatland (photo: Cornelius Oertel)

Field experiments at HoliSoils test sites are investigating the effects of soil and forest management and natural disturbances on soil processes, resilience and climate change mitigation potential. The Eisenstraßenmoor site, managed by HoliSoils partner Thünen Institute, is focussing on long term GHG measurements during and after the process of rewetting, short- and long-term changes of GHG emissions, and how are tree stands influenced by rewetting, among other studies.

In case you speak German and want to find out more, please watch this video: Informationen zum Moor für Waldbesucher – YouTube




This article was originally written by Cornelius Oertel (Thuenen Institute of Forest Ecosystems) and published on the EFI Resilience Blog.

Benefits of the transition to continuous cover forestry on fertile and drained peatland forests in Finland

A clear cut in the foreground of the spruce study site and an unharvested control area behind.

This press release was originally posted on Luke website.

Recent studies from the SOMPA project – coordinated by the The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) – assessed the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in fertile drained peatland forests according to different silvicultural practices in Finland. Continuous cover forestry on fertile drained peatland produced significant climate benefits, because their selection harvesting result in much fewer emissions in comparison to even-aged forestry and clear-cutting. However, selection harvesting does not significantly reduce the amount of soil emissions in comparison to uncut forests, especially if the soil water level is not greatly raised.

A study published in the Scientific Reports journal assessed how the GHG emissions of forests in Finland would change if clear-cutting in fertile and drained peatland forests were replaced by selection harvesting but timber production would be maintained at the average 2016–2018 level of 73 million cubic metres. 

“The transfer to selection harvesting in drained peatlands would yield significant climate benefits, because this would allow avoiding significant soil emissions after clear-cutting and the carbon sink of the growing stock would recover more swiftly after selection harvesting than after clear-cutting,” summarises Aleksi Lehtonen, research professor at Luke, and co-coordinator of the HoliSoils project, which identifies and tests novel soil management practices aiming to mitigate climate change.

A scenario calculation for 2022–2035 that does not allow for the clear-cutting of fertile drained peatland forests produces a larger carbon sink of forests by approximately 1–1,2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (Mt CO2 eq,) in comparison to the scenario corresponding to the current method, where clear-cutting is allowed. This emission reduction is equal to approximately 10 per cent of road traffic emissions of Finland.

In this scenario, the relation between the reduction in harvesting volume and in the increase in carbon sink depends on the selected forest management method. If harvesting is reduced by a million cubic metres by transforming in nutrient-rich spruce forests to selection harvesting, emissions would reduce by 2–3 Mt CO2 eq. The emission reduction in an equivalent reduction in felling volume is only 1,5–2 Mt CO2 eq if clear-cutting in fertile drained peatland forests and other current forest management methods are continued.

Based on this study, areas of development for GHG inventories and GHG scenario works can also be recognised. Harvesting related emissions in fertile drained peatland should be specified with additional monitoring. Tree growth models should also be developed so that they can predict growth in forests with that have variable structures.

Selection harvesting alone would only raise groundwater level minimally

A studies published in the Science of The Total Environment identified the mechanism of the soil GHG emissions and the impact of the groundwater level in both unthinned drained spruce forests and those subject to selection harvesting. 

In the studies, thinning forests through selection harvesting only raised the water level by a bit and did not have a significant effect on carbon emissions. Neither did the soil easily change into a methane source. 

Reducing the carbon emissions produced by oxygen-rich peatlands would require a higher increase in groundwater levels. 

“In the studied peatland forests, draining was originally quite effective and a larger reduction in soil emissions would likely have required a partial damming of ditches in addition to selection harvesting,” says Mikko Peltoniemi, research professor at Luke.

The starting points for cutting emissions may vary between peatland forests. 
“Developing suitable water management solutions for various conditions would require further studies on the combined effects of thinning intensities and the partial blocking of ditches,” says Peltoniemi. 

Qian Li and Maija Kurki from the Natural Resources Institute Finland take peat samples in Ränskäläkorvi, Asikkala. The samples are used to determine the microbial diversity and the genes that regulate its function. Photo: Aleksi Lehtonen

Articles

The studies have been funded by the following projects

  • SOMPA (projects.luke.fi)– Novel soil management practices – key for sustainable bioeconomy and climate change mitigation, Suomen Akatemia, Strategic Research
  • BiBiFe – Biogeochemical and biophysical feedbacks from forest harvesting to climate change, Suomen Akatemia.
  • UNITE-lippulaiva (uniteflagship.fi), Suomen Akatemia.
  • TUIMA – CarbonNudges in Climate Wise Land Use in Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Learn more about HoliSoils in this MAIA’s webinar!

MAIA's second webinar on Climate Change and Agriculture

On 8 September, tune in to this webinar organised by the MAIA Project to learn more about some European projects working on agroforestry and climate change.

This is the second of a series of three webinars on the same topic, climate change and agriculture. This webinar will feature presentations from three speakers representing different European Union-funded projects focusing on agroforestry: Reforest, AGFORWARD, and HoliSoils.

Raisa Mäkipää, the coordinator of this latter project, will join the discussion to present HoliSoils and its work for forest soils.

Register now!

HoliSoils policy brief goes global with translation into 12 languages

The first HoliSoils policy brief Forest soils can increase climate change mitigation with targeted management has dramatically extended its reach to stakeholders around the world with translation into 11 languages.

The HoliSoils project consortium took quick measures to ensure the recent policy brief, published in May 2023, could be accessible to stakeholders in their own countries and beyond. The document is now available in Bosnian, Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, and Spanish.

The policy brief translations, stemming from the original publication from the European Forest Institute, show how considering forest soils in improved management practices increases climate change mitigation. Forest management practices can affect soil carbon stock, soil CO2 emissions, and net exchange of other greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Increasing forest soils’ capacity to store carbon and reduce net GHG emissions is crucial for the EU’s target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

This policy brief is based on a publication by the HoliSoils project which emphasises that the European forest sector needs a comprehensive understanding of the carbon sequestration potential of soils to help design climate change mitigation measures.

Recommendations in the brief include better accounting of forest soil responses to management practices, integrating their effects into existing modelling tools, and creating awareness of the importance of soil mitigation potential for climate change mitigation. The brief also calls for considering site-specific conditions for climate-smart forest management practices and reducing knowledge gaps in understanding how soil carbon balances and GHG emissions are affected by forest management, climate, biodiversity loss, and other environmental changes, as well as their trade-offs.

What is clear is that long-term soil monitoring is needed to verify targeted changes in soil carbon sequestration and reductions of GHG emissions to confirm which management practices are efficient in climate change mitigation, a goal to which the HoliSoils project is working hard to contribute.

Access all the translations from the HoliSoils website

HoliSoils supports key stakeholders with science and tools for GHG reporting

Amanita mushrooms growing on ground among green herb

Experts from the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector are one of HoliSoils’ main target stakeholders. The LULUCF group at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) Bioeconomy Unit provides science-based support to the European Commission’s services in understanding how forests mitigate and interact with climate change in the context of EU and international climate policies. Many of the results developed in HoliSoils are directly targeted to these experts and HoliSoils has established a good and regular dialogue with the group, not least through Anu Korosuo who represents JRC on the HoliSoils Stakeholder and End-User Advisory Board (SEAB).

Partners from the HoliSoils project were invited to present the project and its results so far at the 2023 JRC LULUCF workshop, held in May. The main purpose of these meetings is to provide understanding on how LULUCF regulation is interpreted and of the methods used by different member states for their GHG inventories. The May workshop focused on the needs and opportunities to enhance LULUCF reporting to support climate change mitigation targets for 2030 and beyond.

Aleksi Lehtonen (Luke) presented the HoliSoils project while Mart-Jan Schelhaas (WUR) presented on EFISCEN-Space, the high-resolution forest resource model being updated as part of the project. Hans Verkerk (EFI), also a partner in HoliSoils, presented the ForestPaths project, of which he is coordinator. HoliSoils is working with ForestPaths and other relevant EU-funded projects to ensure synergies between activities and avoid duplicating efforts.

The LULUCF workshop combined overview sessions on the state-of-art of the GHG inventories and the revised LULUCF regulation. Specific sessions focused on moving to higher Tiers in reporting, and on the use of geographically-explicit data and new advances in remote sensing in GHG inventories.

Interesting for HoliSoils is that countries will need to improve their GHG inventory methods in the near future. While many countries do well with forest biomass reporting, there is room for improvement: most countries use Tier 1 but will need to move to Tier 2 by 2028. HoliSoils is providing tools to support such a transition, with a model ensemble tool currently in a beta phase and soon to be launched. Also of interest is the HoliSoils peat map (and other maps) under development, which will support spatially explicit reporting and improve land-use change estimates by providing soil data, contributing to the reporting needed for biodiversity and emission hot-spots.

Presentations from the workshop are available from JRC’s LULUCF pages.

Early career research life in HoliSoils

Soil sampling

I am Qian Li, now working in the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) in the HoliSoils project. I graduated with a PhD in 2021, then joined Luke as a post-doctoral researcher. My background is on peatland green-house gases (GHG) emissions and carbon (C) cycle under the effect of climate warming. Now in the HoliSoils project, my research focuses on how forest management and natural disturbances affect the GHG emissions and soil processes of peatland forests.

My research in HoliSoils

I mainly work in Ränskälänkorpi, a drained peatland forest located in the Southern Finland. This site has three different forest management practices: clearcutting, selection harvesting, and non-harvested control.

We measure total respiration (CO2 emissions) and other greenhouse gases (CH4 and N2O) exchange by putting a manual chamber on top of soil and linking it with a gas concentration analyzer. Then the concentration change of gas emit/uptake by soil is analyzed by the analyzer linked with the chamber. We do it to discover which forest management practices can help mitigate climate change through reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This information can also help policy makers when they consider how to manage forests to achieve the climate targets.

Manual chamber measurement. Photo: Qian Li

To understand the production, consumption and transportation of gases inside soil layers, we also measure the gas concentration in the soil profile by taking gas samples through the silicon tubes buried underground.

We are also interested in knowing about the drivers of soil processes. So, we also take soil samples from surface to 1 meter deep to analyze microbial community structure and soil chemistry.

Uprooting
Uprooting. Photo: Qian Li

In this site, we also study how natural disturbances i.e. storms or windthrows impact soil C and N cycle. In addition to causing breakdown of tree stands, such disturbances can also destroy the upper soil layer by uprooting, or adding woody debris to soil surface, which all impact the soil processes. Especially extreme events are expected to be more frequent due to climate change, so it’s now urgent to know the consequences of such disturbances on ecosystems.

Photo: Qian Li

My feeling to be a member of HoliSoils family

HoliSoils is an EU project in which there are partners from several different European countries as well as from Uruguay and Japan. After joining this project and communicating with them, I have extended my knowledge scale of what kind of research topics they are focusing on and what novel techniques or analysis they are using in their research.

As a researcher who mainly focuses on experiments and field monitoring, I now have a deeper understanding of how models can use our experimental data and help us predict. As my first job after PhD, I am so happy to join Luke and HoliSoils project. This work experience not only brings me the knowledge and skills in science but also extends my network, which could help me to build my future career.

Is it feasible to increase soil carbon stocks by 4 per 1000 per year?

Soil with seedling

Extreme heatwaves, wildfires, floods, droughts… The effects of climate change are no longer predictions: they are happening right now. And, according to the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they will continue to happen and become more and more intense in the future.

So, what can we do to stop them?

Most importantly, we need to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), such as carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel burning and deforestation, and nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) from agriculture. But this is still not enough. In order to achieve carbon neutrality (that is, a net zero difference between what we emit and what we put back in the soil) we will need additional efforts to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in the soil.

This can be done, for example, by avoiding deforestation and improving the management of agricultural soils.

Soil

Soils play a crucial role for C sequestration:

  • They store the largest amount of C compared to all other terrestrial ecosystems.
  • They also store twice to three times more C than the atmosphere and – because the soil and the atmosphere interchange C – this means that even small changes in the soil C stocks can have a huge impact on the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • C improves the fertility and other functions of the soils, so having soils rich in C is beneficial for food production.

Basically, storing more C in the soil can help to mitigate climate change and feed the world!

How can we restore carbon in the soil?

Carbon is naturally brought to the soil through plant photosynthesis and organic matter deposition. It leaves the soil once microbes and other organisms decompose it and respire it back to the atmosphere. Hence, storing additional soil organic C (SOC) can be done in two ways:

  • By increasing the amount of C entering the soil (e.g., the amount of CO2 fixed by the plants, or the amount of organic material added to the soil)
  • By decreasing the C output from the soil (e.g., decreasing the rate of microbial decomposition)

Researchers have found that the most efficient way to store C is to increase the C input to the soil.

Figure 1 Global carbon cycle between the land and the atmosphere. The values were taken from Ciais et al. (2013). Uncertainty in the atmospheric CO2 growth rate is ± 0.02 Gt C yr-1. Figure adapted from Le Quéré et al. (2018). Icons from www.flaticon.com.

How much should we increase the C input?

Assuming that we aim to increase the SOC stocks by a certain fixed target, we estimated the additional C input required to reach this target, and assessed whether this amount is realistic with current land use management practices. Following the 4 per 1000 initiative, we set the target to an annual 4‰ increase of the SOC stocks.

In order to address these questions, we used mathematical models that simulate the processes that influence the accumulation of C in the soil and estimated the additional C input required to reach a 4‰ objective in Europe.

The methods used

We used data from 16 long-term agricultural experiments where agricultural practices with organic matter addition were carried out for several years under controlled conditions. At these experiments, pedo-climatic conditions were monitored over time in order to see the effect of organic matter addition on the system.

Mathematical models are largely used by soil scientists and policy makers to predict the evolution of SOC stocks with time, following changes in land management practices and climate. They help to better understand the behavior of the system, and to predict its future responses to external changes. However, they are still highly uncertain. This is mainly due to the uncertainty of:

  • The processes described in the models, which are still largely unknown;
  • The data used to run them, such as climate and soil variables;
  • The parameters that are included in the model equations, which are usually considered constant although they actually vary in space and time, and which values are not always related to measurable physical processes.

In order to estimate some of this uncertainty, instead of running one single model we ran a multi-model ensemble, which allowed to consider different ways of representing soil processes.

We also calibrated model parameters in order to correctly reproduce the evolution of measured SOC stocks. This means that we adjusted the values of model parameters to reproduce the conditions of the sites that we studied.

Feasibility of the 4 per 100

On average across the models and across the sites, we found that the C input had to increase by 119% compared to the initial conditions. That is, an additional 1.5 ± 1.2 Mg C ha-1 would need to be annually input to the soil in order to increase the SOC stocks by 4‰ each year.

To give an order of magnitude, we estimated from Zhang et al. (2017) that the annual C input applied to European croplands, derived only from livestock manure, is around 0.3 to 0.9 Mg C ha-1. But this is already applied! Meaning that, if we wanted to provide additional 1.5 ± 1.2 Mg C ha-1, that would need to come from different sources of organic material. Doubling the C input where mineral and organic fertilizers are already applied is unlikely without the implementation of other agricultural practices, such as agroforestry systems, cover cropping, improved crop rotations, and crops with a high belowground biomass. This is the case for Europe, for example, where croplands are usually minerally fertilized and where organic fertilizers are already widely applied.

Figure 2 Annual SOC stock increase (%) for different levels of additional C input in agricultural experiments (black spots) and additional C input required to reach the 4‰ SOC increase according to the 1) non-calibrated multi-model median (MMM) (blue cross) and the 2) calibrated MMM (orange cross). Errors are shown as confidence intervals (CI) The regression line between additional C input and SOC stock increase in the EOM treatments is indicated in the figure (y=m (±〖SD〗_m)∙ x + b ± 〖(SD〗_b)).

Model uncertainties

Concerning the model simulations, we found large uncertainties across models, even when they were calibrated to reproduce the observed SOC stocks of the experiments. In particular, we found that the uncertainty across models was mainly due to the way the models represented (or not) water related variables, such as precipitations and potential evapotranspiration. This indicates that the choice of the hydrological processes included in the models and their representation affect model predictions, and it suggests that major efforts should be made to better represent these processes and reduce their associated uncertainties.

Figure 3 Required additional C input (± standard deviation, SD) relative to the unfertilized control, to reach a mean annual 4‰ SOC stock increase for 30 years across the 16 sites. The bars represent the different models and multi-model median (MMM). The non-calibrated and calibrated configurations are in blue and orange, respectively. For the MMM, the SD bar represents the median SD across models.
Figure 4 Heatmap of the simulated additional C input to reach the 4‰, for each calibrated model and each site. Darker cells show lower C input and lighter cells represent higher C input. Dendrograms above the heatmap represent the relationship of similarity among groups of models, calculated as the minimal correlation distance.

Conclusions and perspectives

Despite uncertainties in model simulations, there is compelling evidence that a radical change in agricultural management will be required to cope with climate change and food security in the near future. In a recent report from the Mission Board for Soil Health and Food, the European Commission was suggested to set ambitious targets to increase SOC stocks and improve the health of European soils. Yet, we are far from being optimistic. The last fifty years of international agreements on the response of world nations to climate change have proven that, no matter how compelling evidence the scientific community provides, indicators of adverse change are still on a rise (Glavovic et al., 2021). Governments need to take action before it is too late.

Diversity in science

In the last decades, thousands of works have been published on the effects of land management, land-use change and climate change on SOC. However, studies are narrowed to a selected number of specific drivers and geographical regions. In fact, studies on agricultural management practices have mostly focused on mineral fertilization, organic amendments, and tillage, while drivers of SOC changes have only occasionally been studied in North and Central Africa, and in the Middle East and Central Asia (Beillouin et al., 2022).

Future research should focus on more local and diversified knowledge on how to preserve and restore SOC stocks, while covering understudied geographical regions.

Besides, increased knowledge on the effects of diversified practices on SOC stock changes, under different pedo-climatic conditions, will help to improve model simulations and provide reliable SOC stock projections under future climate change.

Read more about this in the open access paper published in the European Journal of Soil Science: Multi-modelling predictions show high uncertainty of required carbon input changes to reach a 4‰ target

References and related articles

Beillouin, Damien, Rémi Cardinael, David Berre, Annie Boyer, Marc Corbeels, Abigail Fallot, Frédéric Feder, and Julien Demenois. “A Global Overview of Studies about Land Management, Land‐use Change, and Climate Change Effects on Soil Organic Carbon.” Global Change Biology 28, no. 4 (February 2022): 1690–1702. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15998.

Bruni, Elisa, Bertrand Guenet, Yuanyuan Huang, Hugues Clivot, Iñigo Virto, Roberta Farina, Thomas Kätterer, Philippe Ciais, Manuel Martin, and Claire Chenu. “Additional Carbon Inputs to Reach a 4 per 1000 Objective in Europe: Feasibility and Projected Impacts of Climate Change Based on Century Simulations of Long-Term Arable Experiments.” Biogeosciences 18, no. 13 (July 2, 2021): 3981–4004. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-18-3981-2021.

Bruni, Elisa, Bertrand Guenet, Hugues Clivot, Thomas Kätterer, Manuel Martin, Iñigo Virto, and Claire Chenu. “Defining Quantitative Targets for Topsoil Organic Carbon Stock Increase in European Croplands: Case Studies With Exogenous Organic Matter Inputs.” Frontiers in Environmental Science 10 (February 14, 2022): 824724. https://doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2022.824724.

Chenu, Claire, Denis A. Angers, Pierre Barré, Delphine Derrien, Dominique Arrouays, and Jérôme Balesdent. “Increasing Organic Stocks in Agricultural Soils: Knowledge Gaps and Potential Innovations.” Soil and Tillage Research 188 (May 2019): 41–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2018.04.011.

Glavovic, Bruce C., Timothy F. Smith, and Iain White. “The Tragedy of Climate Change Science.” Climate and Development, December 24, 2021, 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2021.2008855.

Martin, Manuel Pascal, Bassem Dimassi, Mercedes Ŕomàn Dobarco, Bertrand Guenet, Dominique Arrouays, Denis A. Angers, Fabrice Blache, Frédéric Huard, Jean‐François Soussana, and Sylvain Pellerin. “Feasibility of the 4 per 1000 Aspirational Target for Soil Carbon. A Case Study for France.” Global Change Biology, February 4, 2021, gcb.15547. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15547.

Riggers, Catharina, Christopher Poeplau, Axel Don, Cathleen Frühauf, and René Dechow. “How Much Carbon Input Is Required to Preserve or Increase Projected Soil Organic Carbon Stocks in German Croplands under Climate Change?” Plant and Soil 460, no. 1–2 (March 2021): 417–33. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-020-04806-8.

Soussana, Jean-François, Suzanne Lutfalla, Fiona Ehrhardt, Todd Rosenstock, Christine Lamanna, Petr Havlík, Meryl Richards, et al. “Matching Policy and Science: Rationale for the ‘4 per 1000 – Soils for Food Security and Climate’ Initiative.” Soil and Tillage Research 188 (May 2019): 3–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2017.12.002.

Zhang, Bowen, Hanqin Tian, Chaoqun Lu, Shree R. S. Dangal, Jia Yang, and Shufen Pan. “Global Manure Nitrogen Production and Application in Cropland during 1860–2014: A 5 Arcmin Gridded Global Dataset for Earth System Modeling.” Earth System Science Data 9, no. 2 (September 6, 2017): 667–78. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-9-667-2017.

Forest soils can increase climate change mitigation with targeted management

Oak seedling

Forest soils are larger carbon stocks than the trees that grow on them. Yet global studies on forest carbon stock changes often focus on wood biomass, wood products or various offsetting effects.

As the European Union strives to find measures to achieve vital climate targets, a new policy brief from the European Forest Institute shows how considering forest soils in improved management practices increases climate change mitigation. Forest management practices can affect soil carbon stock, soil CO2 emissions, and net exchange of other greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Increasing forest soils’ capacity to store carbon and reduce net GHG emissions is crucial for the EU’s target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

This policy brief is based on a publication by the HoliSoils project which emphasises that the European forest sector needs a comprehensive understanding of the carbon sequestration potential of soils to help design climate change mitigation measures.

“The impact of forest management on soils is less studied and is treated in a highly simplified way in decision-making, even though forest management is crucial for achieving carbon neutrality objectives for terrestrial ecosystems,” says research professor Raisa Mäkipää from the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and HoliSoils project coordinator. “Soil is the largest carbon stock in the forest, and it can be either a large sink or a source of GHGs, which are affected by forest management decisions”.

Practices which can affect forest soils include management of nutrients, tree stands, hydrology, biodiversity, and fire, as well as site preparation after harvesting or disturbance.

Management practices affect soil C stock, CO2, CH4, N2O emissions in temperate and boreal forests. (Green arrow indicates positive impacts for climate change mitigation and orange arrow negative impacts for climate change mitigation).

Recommendations in the brief include better accounting of forest soil responses to management practices, integrating their effects into existing modelling tools, and creating awareness of the importance of soil mitigation potential for climate change mitigation. The brief also calls for considering site-specific conditions for climate-smart forest management practices and reducing knowledge gaps in understanding how soil carbon balances and GHG emissions are affected by forest management, climate, biodiversity loss, and other environmental changes, as well as their trade-offs.

What is clear is that long-term soil monitoring is needed to verify targeted changes in soil carbon sequestration and reductions of GHG emissions to confirm which management practices are efficient in climate change mitigation, a goal to which the HoliSoils project is working hard to contribute.

Download the policy brief

Read the original publication

Open position for a postdoctoral researcher on forest soil

Forest soil with mushroom

Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is looking for a postdoctoral researcher in a multidisciplinary research team, which develops sustainable land-use and ecosystem management practices. The researcher will work in a team involved international projects, including Benchmarks and HoliSoils, where it executes field experiments on both peatland and upland forests to study ecosystem processes and to test management regime impacts on ecosystem water, carbon and greenhouse gas fluxes. The postdoctoral researcher will be engaged in an active international collaboration that aims at improving the scientific knowledge about soil processes, soil indicators, and the effects of management on forest soils.

The researcher will study how forest management affects soil element cycles, greenhouse gas fluxes and their drivers. The researcher will:

  1. Implement field experiment, where effects of management practices and natural disturbances on soil biological activity and greenhouse gas fluxes are studied;
  2. Analyze obtained empirical data;
  3. Evaluate and develop soil health indicators.

The researcher will also be responsible for scientific writing and reporting of the results as a lead author.

The deadline for applications is 23 May 2023 at 4.00 pm Finnish time (EEST).

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

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