EGU24: The role of forest management and soils in meeting climate change mitigation goals

EGU flags

The General Assembly 2024 of the European Geosciences Union (EGU 2024) will bring together scientists and especially early career researchers from all over the world to discuss their ideas with experts in all fields of geoscience from 14-19 April (Vienna, Austria, and online). This event will include a session on forest management and soils for climate change mitigation organised by members of the HoliSoils consortium.

Apply now to join HoliSoils’ session on the effects of forest management on soil carbon sequestration!

Submit your abstracts to the session ‘The role of forest management and soils in meeting climate change mitigation goals’ organised by researchers from HoliSoils’ project coordinator Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

This session will explore the current understanding of the effects of forest management on soil carbon sequestration and other processes to develop effective forest-based climate change mitigation strategies.

The session invites experimental and modelling contributions to address the knowledge gaps still remaining and will focus on:

  1. Advancing knowledge concerning the effects of forest management on soil carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas balances, biodiversity, nutrient stocks, organic matter quality, water resources, and stabilisation processes.
  2. Enhancing comprehension of the impacts of natural disturbances and preventing forest management on soil functioning and resilience.
  3. Improving understanding of modelling on the potential of forest management to mitigate climate change.

The Call for Abstracts for EGU24 is open until 10 January 2024 (13:00 CET)!

Read more and learn how you can contribute!

Slovak media and forestry professionals discover more about HoliSoils’ progress

Photo: HoliSoils – Technical University of Zvolen

Stakeholders from the forestry sector in Slovakia were recently able to learn more about the preliminary results of the HoliSoils project as well as the national PROBIOFOR project (Trade-offs between biomass production and biodiversity in beech and spruce forests under changing environmental conditions) at a workshop and field visit organised by the Technical University of Zvolen. This event, which brought together more than 40 participants from the state and private forestry sector, was held on 12 October and was attended by, among others, the Administration of the Protected Landscape of the Poľana Mountains, the State Nature Protection of Slovakia, Pro Silva Slovakia, the National Forestry Centre and the Technical University of Zvolen and Slovak public media journalists.

The workshop started with four introductory lectures explaining to the participants climate change and its effects on forest ecosystems, the adaptation potential of tree species and the carbon balance of forest ecosystems. The programme continued with an excursion to the old-growth forest of Dobroc (a national nature reserve since 1913), including a visit to the test area established for the HoliSoils project.

The preliminary results that were shared with the participants can be summarised as follows:

  • Norway spruce trees are more affected by extreme weather conditions than European beech and silver fir. Fir and beech trees even created a larger increment in 2022 than in 2021, which was vice versa for the spruce trees.
  • Norway spruce trees strongly suffered from the drought of 2022, which together with a mild winter condition lowered its ability to protect against bark beetle invasion, leading to a large-scale disturbance in 2023.

  • Soil water storage and its availability to trees was also heavily affected by the drought in 2022. As early as April, the soil water content had already dropped below 10%, touching 5%, on the test site in spruce monoculture, whereas it remained at a level of around 20–30% on the test site in the nearby mixed forest by the end of June.

  • Soil CO2 fluxes were larger in the mixed forest compared to the spruce monoculture, likely due to higher microbial diversity and activity in the soil. It was also shown that the largest differences between the spruce monoculture and the mixed forest were at higher temperatures during the summer. However, during the drought, the differences were almost negligible. Carbon increment in the above- and below-ground biomass was approximately between 3.5 and 4.5 t C ha-1 yr-1, whereas the C emission from the soil was found to be around 5 – 6 t C ha-1 yr-1 in the spruce and 7 – 8 in the mixed forest. During the field trip, it was stressed that soil carbon and fluxes have to be considered when discussing the potential of forest ecosystems to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Journalists from the main public Slovak radio and television stations took part in the workshop. The reportage was broadcast on the RTVS Regina show on 17 October 2023.

Photo: HoliSoils – Technical University of Zvolen

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.

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

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!

New postdoctoral opportunity on microbial diversity and soil processes

Microscope

A new postdoc position has been opened at the Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, with a focus on microbial processes in soil.

The ideal candidate has strong quantitative skills (statistical or process-based modelling) to quantify how microbial diversity affects carbon cycling in soil, and how to describe these linkages in soil carbon cycling models. The selected candidate will work with Stefano Manzoni on either HoliSoils project, or the ERC project “Soil microbial responses to land use and climatic changes in the light of evolution”. Both projects tackle questions at the intersection of ecology, soil science, and biogeosciences, and offer outstanding international networking opportunities.

The deadline for application is 5 May 2023.

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

Post-doctoral opportunity in forest soil modelling

Forest soil and a ladybug

The School of Biological Sciences of the University of Aberdeen is looking for an enthusiastic and motivated postdoctoral Research Fellow to join their Environmental Modelling team and work on soil modelling in the framework of the HoliSoils project. In particular, working together with Dr Marta Dondini, the Research Fellow will explore the impacts, trade-offs, and synergies of forest management scenarios for soils and forests on the Europewide GHG balance under future climate conditions.

Apply by 13 February to seize this great opportunity to work with HoliSoils!

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