Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 21.6.2006

BioSoil project launched

Metla investigates changes in soil carbon and nutrient stocks and the species of ground vegetation

The Finnish Forest Research Institute launched a project in June 2006 to study the carbon and nutrient stocks of growing stock, ground vegetation and soils in Finnish forests, and the changes that have taken place in them during the past ten years. The biodiversity of forests will also be explored by studying some 640 vascular plant species and the amount of decaying wood.

The BioSoil project will be implemented in all countries of the European Union. In addition to collecting national results, the objective is to gain a total view of the nutrients and carbon stock in forest soil and the biodiversity of forests in Europe. Each EU member state will be responsible for implementing the project at the national level. In Finland, Metla will implement the project in the years 2006-2007

The aim of the project’s soil study is to determine the amounts of plant-available nutrients and carbon compounds in forest soils. The carbon stocks of soil are created so that plants first bind carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When plants die, they return to the soil, but they decompose back into carbon dioxide and water only to a certain degree. By comparing the results of the Biosoil project with those gained from a corresponding study made in1995, information will be gained about possible changes and reasons for the changes throughout the European Union. The data on carbon stocks will also be used to develop a greenhouse gas reporting system.

In this project, biodiversity will be explored for the first time on such a wide scale in the EU area. The fact that research will be conducted with harmonised methods will make it possible to evaluate biodiversity and compare its state in different countries. The material will also make it possible to study the relations between the increment of growing stock, soil properties and species richness, because measurements are made on the same sample plots.

Another aim of the BioSoil project is to develop monitoring and research methods suitable for studying soils and biodiversity all over Europe, with the future needs in mind. Research data that will be collected during the project can be utilised also in other studies in Finland, such as studies on site type classification, climate change and deposition impacts.

A forest health monitoring programme has been implemented in Europe since 1985. Since 2003, the name of the programme has been Forest Focus. When the forest health monitoring programme was founded, it was agreed that separate studies will be made to investigate changes taking place in nature and the reasons for the changes. The Biosoil project now being implemented is one of these separate studies. The Finnish Forest Research Institute has been responsible for the monitoring activities in Finland.

The BioSoil project will be implemented on the sample plots founded in connection with the 8 th National Forest Inventory. Of the total of 3,000 sample plots, 640 plots of 400 m2 will be explored. Soil samples will be collected from the sample plots and analysed in laboratories to determine the soil carbon and nutrient stocks. First, the solum type will be determined from a hole dug in the ground in the research area, and at the same time the solum will be photographed. Next, ground vegetation coverage on four sample areas, each of two square metres, and the number of species in the whole sample plot will be estimated. Measurements and collection of soil samples will be carried out without damaging tree stands, and the solum hole will also be covered as well as possible, without leaving any signs of it on the ground.

For project implementation, the country has been divided into eight areas where the rock mantle and growing stock will be studied, and in 11 areas where vegetation will be studied. A three-person field group will work in each of the research areas aimed at rock mantle and growing stock studies. The groups have already started their work. The vegetation research groups will be trained to carry out their work in the week following Midsummer. The 11 groups of biologists will start their field work in their own areas at the beginning of July.

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