In the context of the EU soil strategy for 2030, the European Space Agency (ESA) is committed to monitor and service the soil restauration requirements with the Earth observation means and technologies set in place, particularly through Copernicus.
On 5 July 2023, the European Commission submitted a proposal to establish an European Soil Monitoring Law to foster the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of soils. A new report from the European Parliament is currently proposing several amendments to the original Commission’s text.
Your help is now needed to contribute to the assessment on the capacity of your own European Country to implement such law. To do so, a quick survey (only 6 questions) was developed in the framework of the SOLO Project and of the Soil Biodiversity Observation Network (SoilBON) as part of their contribution to existing legislation.
This questionnaire is based on the report from the European Parliament to collect contributions for an European overview and create a community of people that can be mobilized for this monitoring effort.
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!
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:
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.
Enhancing comprehension of the impacts of natural disturbances and preventing forest management on soil functioning and resilience.
Improving understanding of modelling on the potential of forest management to mitigate climate change.
Members of the HoliSoils consortium will organise a session at the General Assembly 2024 of the European Geosciences Union (EGU 2024) to discuss invertebrate biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and climate change. EGU’s primary goal is to provide a platform for scientists to showcase their work and engage in discussions with experts across various geoscience fields. The 2024 edition will take place in Vienna, Austria, from 14-19 April and can also be followed online.
Submit your abstract and participate in HoliSoils EGU’s 2024 session!
This session aims to improve our understanding of soils and how they harbour a large proportion of terrestrial invertebrate biodiversity (e.g. myriapods, insects, arachnids and oligochaetes), as well as to deepen their functional role in terrestrial ecosystems, systematically underestimated partly because the inventory of soil invertebrate biodiversity is methodologically difficult.
Therefore, the organising members of HoliSoils invite abstracts of studies (e.g. experimental, methodological, field monitoring or modelling) that attempt to fill this knowledge gap by focusing on improving our understanding of the role of soil fauna in the functioning of soils and terrestrial ecosystems.
The Call for Abstracts for EGU24 is now open and you can submit your abstract to the session of your choice by 13:00 CET, 10 January 2024!
Soil and water are key resources that allow life on Earth, while their sustainable management and conservation foster climate change mitigation and adaptation. The 2023 edition of the World Soil Day on 5 December focuses on the theme “Soils and Water: a source of life”.
Since 2014, every 5 December FAO, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP), organizes the World Soil Day to celebrate and highlight the importance of healthy soils and their sustainable management.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 peatlandshould 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
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.
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.
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