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Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science

National Soil Carbon Network

The National Soil Carbon Network (NSCN) 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. The principal goals of the Network are to produce databases, models, and maps that enable users to understand:  (1) how much C is stored in U.S. 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 Network also facilitates topical workshops, peer-reviewed publication, and presentations at professional conferences. NIACS provides vital institutional support to the NSCN, particularly in the areas of logistics, communications, graphic and web design, and outreach to the forest ecology and management community.


  • The NSCN 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 NSCN is facilitating, and generally stay aware of what the NSCN is working on.
  • The NSCN provides access to a soil carbon database with >30,000 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 NSCN is organizing a session at the 2011 AGU Fall Meeting called '14C in Terrestrial Ecology: Reductionism to Synthesis.' The session will bring together over 20 scientists to present and discuss research utilizing this powerful analytical tool, which plays an important role in soil C vulnerability assessments facilitated by the NSCN.
  • The NSCN and DOE-Lawrence-Berkeley National Lab co-organized a workshop in July 2011 to initiate data synthesis among a group of 23 researchers. Workshop participants came from around the world to discuss research directions at the intersection of climate, carbon cycling and 14C analysis.


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: 01/19/2017