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Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science

International Soil Carbon Network

The International Soil Carbon Network (ISCN) is an organization of scientists from academia, government, and the private sector working towards a large-scale synthesis of soil C research in the United States and around the world. The principal goals of the ISCN are to produce databases, models, and maps that enable users to understand:  (1) how much C is stored in U.S. and other countries’ soils, (2) how long this C remains in the soil, and (3) the factors that make this soil C vulnerable to being lost (i.e., emitted to the atmosphere). Overarching these goals is the need for a spatially explicit approach, since measurements of soil C storage, turnover, and vulnerability vary at spatial scales from several meters to thousands of kilometers, as well as across different depths within an individual soil profile.

In addition to database development, modeling, and mapping, the ISCN also facilitates topical workshops, peer-reviewed publication, and presentations at professional conferences. NIACS provides vital institutional support to the ISCN, particularly in the areas of logistics, communications, graphic and web design, and outreach to the forest ecology and management community.


  • The ISCN website provides points of interaction for scientists interested in soil C research to access or contribute data, use communication tools that link them with colleagues, get involved in efforts that the ISCN is facilitating, and generally stay aware of what the ISCN is working on.
  • The ISCN provides access to a soil carbon database with >40,000 soil profiles from agencies and individual scientists. Database improvements are ongoing, including addition of more investigator data, development of new data accessibility options, and additional metadata for use in soil C synthesis work. The database is a collaborative project that benefits from the institutional and collaborative support of the USGS Global Change Program, USDA-Forest Service and Northern Research Station, USDA-NIFA, Berkeley Water Center, Universities of Alaska, California-Berkeley, Michigan, and Virginia, and Microsoft Research.
  • The ISCN hosted an international study tour devoted to methods training in belowground carbon accounting in 2013.  This five-day tour was organized by the International Programs of the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development, SilvaCarbon, and other branches of the Forest Service.  Participants included staff from government agencies and academic institutions in Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador.
  • The ISCN hosted a Town Hall Meeting at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference in 2012.  More than 40 individuals participated.


Nave L.E., Vance E.D., Swanston C.W., and Curtis P.S. 2011. Fire effects on temperate forest soil C and N storage. Ecological Applications 21(4), 1189-1201.

K Johnson, J Harden, AD McGuire, J Bockheim, M Clark, J O’Donnell, C Ping, E Schuur. In review. Soil carbon storage in Alaska: Results from a new database and a multi-regional landscape approach to spatial distribution assessment.

Nave, LE, ED Vance, CW Swanston, and PS Curtis. 2010. Harvest impacts on soil carbon storage in temperate forests. Forest Ecology and Management.259: 857-866.

Nave, LE, ED Vance, CW Swanston, and PS Curtis.. 2009. Impacts of elevated N inputs on north temperate forest soil C storage, C/N, and net N-mineralization. Geoderma.153: 231-240.

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Last Modified: 12/05/2014