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).

Join HoliSoils at EGU 2024!

EGU session

From 14 to 19 April, scientists and early career researchers worldwide will meet at the General Assembly 2024 of the European Geosciences Union (EGU 2024) in Vienna, Austria, and online to engage in discussions on various aspect of geoscience.

The management of agricultural and forest soils in meeting global change mitigation goals” session will be filled with contributions from researchers involved in the HoliSoils project. On the morning of Friday 19, oral presentations will take place in Room -2.2, followed by poster session in Hall X3 in the afternoon.

If you plan to be there, don’t miss this chance to get unique insights from HoliSoils research!

Discover all the details about the session SSS9.11!

PhD course on Advanced Measurements and Analyses of GHG Fluxes

Students at university

A PhD course on Advanced Measurements and Analyses of Greenhouse Gas Fluxes from Soils and Ecosystems will take place in Copenhagen between 26 and 30 August 2024.

The course is hosted by the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management of University of Copenhagen with the support of AnaEE-ERIC (Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems).

The course will offer post-graduate students the possibility to develop their skills in measuring and analysing the exchange of GHG’s between the soil and the ecosystem and the atmosphere using the latest chamber technologies. Participants will gain hands-on experience with analisers, experiments, and state-of-the-art software.

The application deadline is on 1 August 2024. Don’t miss this opportunity: seats are limited.

Read all the details about this course!

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!

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


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

Webinar on incentives for carbon farming concludes the “Soil on 1” series

WUR webinar

The webinar series “Soil on 1” carried out by WUR, a HoliSoils partner organisation, has almost come to an end. This series of three online events aimed to explore the connection between SOC sequestration and climate, soil, and buyers/sellers of carbon credits.

In May and June, the first two webinar were organised to learn more about how SOC sequestration impacts climate mitigation and soil quality.

This last webinar will investigate the possible incentives for carbon farming including carbon credits. On 4 July, 9.00 – 10.00 CET, the discussion will focus on what SOC sequestration means for the seller (farmer) and buyer.

Click here to join the webinar!

New webinar on SOC sequestration and soil quality

WUR webinar

WUR, an organisation part of the HoliSoils Consortium, is hosting a series of webinars titled “Soil on 1” to discuss if SOC sequestration as a win-solution for the climate, soil, and buyers and sellers of carbon credits.

After a first successful webinar on SOC sequestration and climate mitigation, the second webinar will explore what SOC sequestration means for soil quality. The third and final webinar will then focus on carbon markets.

Don’t miss this chance to join the second webinar, titled “SOC sequestration & soil quality”, that will take place on Tuesday 20 June, 9.00 – 10.00 CET.

Click here to join the webinar!

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.