The USDA Forest Service Soils program focuses on the role of soils in contributing to ecological integrity and the sustainable management of National Forests and Grasslands.
”The history of every Nation is eventually written in the way in which it cares for its soil.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt; Statement on Signing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act, 1936
- North American Forest Soils Conference about the Role of Forest Soils in Sustaining Ecosystem services will be held June 2013 in Whitefish, Montana
(Information and Registration)
- Dig It - Soil Secrets @ the Smithsonian - Update: The exhibit was on display at the Museum from July 18, 2008 through January 10, 2010. While the physical exhibition is now closed, the exhibition content will be available on http://forces.si.edu/soils indefinitely.
- Monongahela Field Days: West Virginia Cooperative Soil Survey Field days were held on the Monongahela National forest on June 11-15, 2012. Participants included soil scientists, ecologists, foresters, and biologists from the Forest Service, NRCS, and West Virginia University. The group collected data for ecological site descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains red spruce ecosystem, and to characterize habitat for the Cheat Mountain salamander and the northern flying squirrel.
|Monongahela National Forest; high-elevation red spruce coniferous forest in a mountainous landscape. Take from a road near Spruce Knob.
||Participants digging soil pits.
- Special Category for “Professional Accomplishment Soil Science”
Nancy Burt, Forest Soil Scientist of the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests
- Field Soil Scientist of the Year
Dave Hoppe, Field Soil Scientist on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
- Important Nature article on soil carbon: Schmidt, M.W.I, M.S. Torn, S. Abiven, T. Dittmar, G. Guggenberger, I.A. Janssens, M. Kleber, I. Kogel-Knabner, J. Lehmann, D.A.C. Manning, P. Nannipieri, D.P. Rasse, S. Weiner, and S.E. Trumbore. 2011. Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property. Nature 478: 49-56.
For purchase, visit 'Nature'
Available to USDA employees via USDA-DigiTop (Quick Tip: copy article title into Google and search; must be logged into federal system through USDA computer)
Authors of this article challenge the long-held assumption that soil carbon is recalcitrant, or resistant to breakdown, due to the accumulation of large molecules that have been termed 'humic substances'. Now, the persistence of soil organic matter is thought to be controlled by the surrounding environment, particularly its exposure to the microbial population. Soil carbon may be less stable than has been previously assumed, but the new findings also show there are possibilities for managing soils to store more carbon.
- Using Woody Biomass to Produce Bio-oil and BioChar: Fuel buildups due to fire suppression and tree mortality have increased the risk of wildfires in many parts of the country, but mechanically removing fuels from millions of acres nationwide represents a significant cost. Utilizing the wood could offset part of the cost, but if transport of this low-density material is needed, utilization is not cost effective or energy efficient.
The Umpqua and Umatilla National Forests have worked with private companies to develop and test equipment and procedures to apply fast-pyrolysis technology at smaller scales for treating woody material in slash piles on-site. Pyrolysis burns slash at high temperatures under anerobic conditions, producing less carbon dioxide than traditional slash-pile burning. Small, portable, fast-pyrolysis units can be taken to field sites to produce bio-oil from woody biomass. Bio-oil can substitute for fuel oil, or be refined into higher value products, and transporting it is more economically feasible. On-site bio-oil production through pyrolysis also addresses concerns about removing carbon and nutrients from forest sites. A byproduct of pyrolysis is bio-char, which retains most of the carbon and nutrients contained in biomass, and can be left on the field site to maintain soil fertility. Excess bio-char can also be transported for use in non-forest applications. Monitoring after bio-char amendments has shown increases in soil organic matter (carbon), improved nutrient balances, increased soil moisture retention, and heavy metal sequestration.
Caption: Photos show the restoration of barren waste rock piles at the Hope Mine project, Aspen Ranger District, White River National Forest. The rock piles are perched above Castle Creek, one of Aspen's main municipal water sources. The project was conducted as a partnership utilizing Biochar Solutions, Inc. Different rates of compost and bio-char were applied with a conveyer to create 'topsoil' on the slopes. The before and after shots, and the time lapsed photos from the 2011 growing season, demonstrate the efficacy of the soil amendment. The role of compost in this amendment (up to 95% by volume) was critical, as it served to reduce material costs, facilitate material handling, and provide a source of nitrogen and beneficial microorganisms.
The Terrestrial Ecological Unit Inventory (TEUI) is a system to classify ecosystem types and map ecological units at different spatial scales. The system distinguishes among land areas that differ in important ecological factors, such as geology, climate, soils, hydrology, and vegetation. Maps and information about ecological units are applied in land use planning to describe land capability and identify suitability for various uses.
TEUI Technical Guide
- Technical Guide: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 2005g. Terrestrial Ecological Unit Inventory Technical Guide. September 2005 GTR WO-68. pp.104. (pdf 2.74 MB)
TEUI Geospatial Toolkit
- The Terrestrial Ecological Unit Inventory Geospatial Toolkit (TEUI Toolkit) is an ArcGIS extension that assists users in mapping and analyzing landscapes using geospatial data. The Toolkit accelerates the TEUI and Soil Survey mapping process, but can also be used for other natural resource mapping efforts. The Toolkit utilizes raster data (e.g., slope, aspect, elevation), polygon data (e.g., map units), and point data (e.g., soil pedon or vegetation plots), to calculate zonal statistics and display the results in tabular or graphical format. The TEUI Toolkit was developed and is maintained by the USFS Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) in Salt Lake City, UT.
Soil Quality Monitoring
- Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol Volume I : Rapid Assessment.
GTR WO-82a. September 2009; USDA Forest Service. By Deborah S. Page-Dumroese, Ann M. Abbott and Thomas M. Rice. PDF (204 KB)
- Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol Volume II : Supplementary Methods, Statistics and Data Collection.
GTR WO-82b. September 2009; USDA Forest Service. By Deborah S. Page-Dumroese, Ann M. Abbott and Thomas M. Rice. PDF (1.76 MB)
- Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol Volume III : Scientific Background for Soil Monitoring on National Forests and Rangelands: Workshop Proceedings.
Proc. RMRS-P-59. April 29-30, 2008; USDA Forest Service. Page-Dumroese, Deborah; Neary, Daniel; Trettin, Carl 2010. Scientific background for soil monitoring on National Forests and Rangelands: workshop proceedings; Denver, CO. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 126 p. PDF (4.72 MB)
- Soil Disturbance Field Guide
Visual Field Guide 0819 1815P
- Briefing Paper: Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol and the Soil Disturbance Field Guide - 2009 PDF (21.2 KB)
by Randy Davis