Setting an ‘Earthy’ Standard
By Jean-Michel Carnus, Coordinator, IUFRO Division 8
Since 2003, 26 European specialists in humus forms have been working to develop a standardized system of classifying the condition and configuration of topsoil layers adapted to European ecological conditions.
The result of their work could become an international reference, of which, none exists today.
Studies have shown that soils store more carbon than terrestrial vegetation and the atmosphere combined, and also that soil organic matter plays a key role in the global carbon cycle as it stores huge amounts of carbon and thus counters global warming.
It is also known that some soil organic matter remains stable for thousands of years while other soil organic matter degrades quickly and releases carbon into the atmosphere thereby reinforcing the greenhouse effect.
So, as the earth’s climate warms and concerns increase about the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, a standardized system will allow a better understanding of the role of the humus forms in the carbon cycle – and the conditions under which they represent a sink (absorbing carbon), or a source (releasing carbon into the atmosphere).
Humus forms – the brown or black layers consisting of partially or wholly decayed matter – provide nutrients for plants and increase the ability of soil to retain water. These layers contain a large part of the total soil organic carbon and provide an interface between the atmosphere and the mineral soil, representing an important linkage to aquatic systems.
The main challenge the specialists have sought to address is the lack of harmony that exists in classification keys for humus forms – they are different in every European country.
Those classification differences mean that data cannot be easily exchanged among research teams, land managers and policy makers working with soils in different countries.
The specialists’ aim is to improve the compatibility of those established national classification systems and to develop a unified European reference base for humus forms. The classification system is geared primarily to West European countries between 40-60 degrees of latitude, but it’s expected to work in other ecosystems of equivalent climate. It has already been successfully tested in some forests in Iran.
While aimed primarily at forest soils, the classification system is also applicable to grasslands, pastures and wetlands.
One of the keys to this standardization is to recognize differences in local ecosystems and the need to analyze the soil horizons – layers parallel to the soil surface, whose physical characteristics differ from the layers above and beneath – of each different humus form.
The European specialists have set up protocols for the assessment and sampling of certain horizons and have developed definitions for specific diagnostic horizons, materials and their designation.
Acceptance of this classification system will provide a valuable tool to help us better understand the connection between different humus forms and carbon storage in the soil and the response of soil organic matter to a warming climate.
To view the full report, go to: [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001670611100139X] (summarized as published article)
and [http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/56/17/95/PDF/Humus_Forms_ERB_31_01_2011.pdf] (unpublished complete document)
- A European morpho-functional classification of humus forms, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001670611100139X
- European Humus Forms Reference Base, http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/56/17/95/PDF/Humus_Forms_ERB_31_01_2011.pdf
IUFRO Division 8 – Forest Environment: http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-8/80000/
New Humus forms, in a structured dynamic system of classification. Photo provided by Augusto Zanella, Deputy Coordinator of IUFRO 8.02.03.
Putting Experts to the Test
By: Jurij Beguš, Coordinator, IUFRO 9.01.03 Extension and Knowledge Exchange
(Slovenia Forest Service, Department for Forestry Technique)
Expert knowledge – advice and-or recommendations from those who have spent much time researching and learning about a given subject area – is often used by resource managers who do not themselves have the time or resources to collect all the data necessary to make a sound decision.
That expert knowledge, which can be used in highly diverse situations in various ecosystems and geographical areas, can assist with forest management, eco- regionalization, species conservation or environmental impact assessment. Read more…
Forests: Medicine for Body and Soul
By Hannu Raitio, Coordinator of IUFRO Task Force ForHealth
(DG Finnish Forest Research Institute, Metla)
Imagine a doctor who, rather than advising the usual: “Take these pills daily for the next two weeks,” says instead: “Take long walks in the forest daily for the next two weeks. That should get you back to normal.”
There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests forests and other natural, green settings can reduce stress, improve moods, curtail aggressiveness and – possibly – even strengthen our immune systems.
Medical and health care costs are a skyrocketing financial burden in many, if not all, countries around the world – often funded through taxation or other common responsibility arrangements. Read more…
By Robert Jandl, Deputy Coordinator of IUFRO Division 8
In the coming decades, forests will play a major role in our planet’s carbon cycle and in our efforts to manage the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
Getting a better understanding of whether that role might be good (a sink, absorbing carbon) or bad (a source, adding carbon to the atmosphere), motivated a study by Yude Pan and colleagues, recently published in Science Express.
The study identifies global forests as the major terrestrial carbon sink (as opposed to grasslands, peatlands or agricultural lands). It is the first such study to base conclusions on forest inventory and land cover data instead of simulation results. Read more…
End trade in detrimental ornamentals to save forests
By Eckehard Brockerhoff, IUFRO Deputy Coordinator of Division 7
(SCION, New Zealand)
In a provocative attempt to save the world’s forests, a group of 70-plus scientists from 17 countries are asking trade policy makers around the globe to phase out such international trade in high-risk plants that put forest health at high risk while offering limited economic benefit.
If the scientists’ proposal is implemented, it would mean an end to all international trade in containerized ornamental plant seedlings and trees intended as plants for instant landscape planting. Read more…
Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge: Sustaining Communities, Ecosystems and Biocultural Diversity
By Su See Lee, IUFRO Vice-President
A new book invites forest scientists to think outside the box – or, perhaps outside the laboratory – and make more of an effort to incorporate elements of traditional knowledge in their research and forest management activities.
The book, Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge: Sustaining Communities, Ecosystems and Biocultural Diversity, published by Springer just this month, takes a long look at the contribution traditional knowledge has made and continues to make to sustainable resource management around the world. Read more…
Forest research matters. All of us under the IUFRO umbrella know that.
Research is what we, in our member organizations, do. It is who we are.
In addition to increasing our understanding of the world in which we live, there can be – and often are – important policy implications for our research findings. And we know very well that good sustainable forest management decisions can only be made based on sound science.
For that reason, IUFRO is embarking on a new initiative called IUFRO Spotlight to introduce timely, significant forest research findings from our member organizations to a worldwide network of policy makers, other decision makers and researchers. Read more…