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Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science

Forest Management and Soil Carbon – Project, publications and datasets

Research Issue

[photo:] Need description Forest soils hold about 1/3 of the carbon (C) stored in Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems, but we still have much to learn about how management affects C
accumulation and loss in forest soils. Since maintaining soil C storage is important for mitigating climate change, sustaining forest productivity, and protecting water quality, it is vital to understand how practices like forest fertilization, timber harvesting, and prescribed burns affect forest soil C storage. These practices are valuable tools in the acquisition and protection of the natural resources that forests provide, and the ever-increasing human need for forest resources demands a sound scientific basis to management.

Our Research

Our work involves collecting results from hundreds of studies of forest management and soil processes from around the world, and organizing these results into databases for statistical analysis. Using a statistical technique called meta-analysis, which is also widely employed in clinical studies of medicine and human health, we are quantifying how soil C storage changes under different management regimes. Through this work, we are able to provide numeric estimates of how much soil C is lost or gained when a forest is fertilized, logged, or burned. In addition, our analysis identifies specific factors that influence the effects of management on soil C storage, such as soil type, geographic location, and forest species composition. We also include measurements of soil nitrogen (N) in our analyses, since N availability is a factor that strongly influences tree growth, soil C storage, and water quality in forested regions.

Expected Outcomes

The results of our research are important for land managers, policymakers, carbon accountants, and scientists working on a variety of forest-related issues. Our study provides scientific information for establishing the role of forest soils in C sequestration programs, predicting the consequences of current management practices for future forest productivity, and understanding how ecological processes interact with human interventions to influence soil C and N storage.

Nave L.E., Vance E.D., Swanston C.W., and Curtis P.S. Fire effects on temperate forest soil C and N storage. In preparation for Ecological Applications.

Research Results

Nave L.E., Vance E.D., Swanston C.W., and Curtis P.S. 2009. Impacts of elevated N inputs on north temperate forest soil C storage, C/N, and net N-mineralization. Geoderma 153: 231-240.

Files for N inputs meta-analysis:

Nave L.E., Vance E.D., Swanston C.W., and Curtis P.S. 2010. Harvest impacts on soil carbon storage in temperate forests. Forest Ecology and Management  259: 857-866.

Files for Harvest meta-analysis:

Nave L.E., Vance E.D., Swanston C.W., and Curtis P.S. Fire effects on temperate forest soil C and N storage. In press. Ecological Applications.

Files for Fire meta-analysis:

Research Participants

Principal Invistigator

  • Peter Curtis, Ohio State University. Professor and Chair of the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology.

Research Partners


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Last Modified: 01/18/2011