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Soil Carbon in Forest Ecosystems: Managing for Soil Carbon B.C. Forest Carbon Initiative Soil Carbon Working Group
2021
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Abstract: Soil organic carbon (SOC) is the largest terrestrial carbon pool, and is an important consideration in climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. Land management can cause direct gains or losses of SOC, and can also have a measurable impact on the ongoing processes that affect SOC over the long-term [1, 2, 3]. However, this impact is site-specific. To predict how a given practice will affect SOC stocks and processes, it is helpful to have a general understanding of soil carbon pools and processes (see separate document Soil Carbon in Forest Ecosystems: Pools and Processes [4]). One can then begin to estimate which aspects of the soil system will be altered by specific management practices on a particular site. This document presents a four-step soil carbon management framework via two hypothetical case studies (pages 3-7) and information about how fertilization, site preparation, reforestation, residue retention, and wildfire management influence SOC in the forestry context (pages 8-11). Managing for soil carbon is about encouraging a desirable balance of carbon inputs (primarily litter and root inputs) and carbon outputs (primarily decomposition). For example, mechanical site preparation can disturb the soil and may initially result in increased respiration by soil biota, but over time those losses may be offset by greater SOC inputs related to better seedling establishment, growth and carbon uptake once trees become established. The appropriate treatment will depend on the goals of the project and the characteristics of the site.
 
B.C. Forest Carbon Initiative Soil Carbon Working Group, Chuck Bulmer, Julia Amerongen Maddison, Tony Trofymow, Cindy Prescott, Brian Wallace, Tim Philpott, Caren Dymond, Art Fredeen. 2021. Soil Carbon in Forest Ecosystems: Managing for Soil Carbon. FLNRORD. Misc. Report (FLNRORD). MR126
 
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Keywords: global carbon cycle; climate change mitigation; soil organic carbon; British Columbia forests; forest ecosystem carbon stocks
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