Integrating Soil Monitoring in Nordic Forests – data harmonization, future designs and studies to examine soil function at different scales (NorForSoil)

Coordinator: Lise Dalsgaard, lise.dalsgaard@nibio.no, NIBIO


Kickoff meeting: presentations

Shun Hasegawa et al.: Soil Carbon Monitoring in Norwegian Forests

Aleksi Lehtonen: Holistic management practices, modelling and monitoring for European forest soils

Helena Marta Stefánsdóttir: The Role of Icelandic National Forest Inventory (INFI) in Assessing the Status of Soil Carbon

Iveta Varnagiryté-Kabasinskiene: Forest SOC monitoring in Lithuania –challenges and needs for the future

Andreas Hagenbo: Soil Modelling and Prediction on Land

Johan Stendahl: Forest SOC monitoring in Sweden – challenges and needs for the future

Lise Dalsgaard et al.: Questionnaire comparing soil (SOC) surveys/monitoring systems in Lithuania, Sweden and Denmark

Zander Venter: SOC map for South Africa – spatial modelling and transfer value for forest soils in the Nordic – Baltic region

Jenni Nordén: HE project BENCHMARKS – Synergies with NorForSoil?

Andis Lazdins: Forest SOC monitoring in Latvia – challenges and needs for the future/situation update

Ivika Ostonen et al.: Forest SOC monitoring in Estonia – challenges and needs for the future

Inge Stupak et al.: Forest soil organic carbon (SOC) monitoring in Denmark – challenges and needs for the future


NorForSoil in short

Stones, Norway. Photo: O. Janne Kjønaas

NorForSoil is a platform for researchers and stakeholders involved with monitoring of forest soil in the Nordic and Baltic countries. We will explore possibilities to harmonize national soil monitoring data and methodology across borders for integrated analysis, including existing data, future data collected with current methods as well as the potential for development and harmonization of future monitoring design and methods. The short-term focus is on forest soil organic carbon (SOC), but the potential for including other soil properties in analyses will also be outlined. NorForSoil includes eight Nordic and Baltic countries (nine research institutes) and is, via an ongoing PhD study, linked also to the national soil monitoring in Canada.


The long-term goals are the following:

• Harmonize or “pair” existing forest soil monitoring data for meaningful cross-national analyses to advance science and its use as support for policy-making.

• Create a platform for continuous dialogue to develop and potentially harmonize future forest soil monitoring systems in the Nordic and Baltic countries by gradual convergence.


The short-term goals are the following (see also Figure 1 below):

• Create a portfolio of scientific and policy-relevant hypotheses that can be tested by use of existing data, including identification of variables measured in the forest soil monitoring systems and other datasets of relevant spatiotemporal scales that can be harmonized and integrated for this purpose.

• Carry out a test-case in 2023 to explore the potential of harmonizing SOC data to study if and how forest SOC, as monitored in a range of national monitoring programs (in this case including Canada), depend on timber harvesting and the time since harvest (the study is part of an ongoing PhD study), to the extent that such information is available.

• Suggest how and to what extent forest soil monitoring designs and methods in the Nordic and Baltic countries can be adjusted to increase the potential for joint data analyses in the future, including methodologies to monitor developments in soil microbial communities and soil biodiversity.

• Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of other available data, including (but not limited to) remote sensing data and wall-to-wall maps, as well as opportunities to use modelling (e.g. processmodels or machine learning) to support the generation of new knowledge about soils.

• Seek funding opportunities that will allow the network to continue its activities in a longer term and initiate projects targeting the identified research needs.


Fig. 1 Work tasks and flows between them including coordinating partners. NINA (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research), SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), LUKE (Natural Resources Institute Finland), KU (University of Copenhagen), NIBIO (Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research). Other institutes in NorForSoil are: Icelandic Forest Service, Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry, Latvian State Forest Research (Silava) and The University of Tartu. During 2023 additional stakeholder institutes will be part of the NorForSoil activities.


Glimpses from the NorForSoil kickoff February 8-9, 2023

As an integrated part of an ongoing PhD study (KU, NINA) the network discussed how to merge and harmonize SOC data from 4-5 different national forest soil inventories to study the relationship between SOC pools and changes and the time since harvest. Close coordination is necessary to scale ambitions to the tight deadlines of a PhD project as well as the short duration of NorForSoil.  Due to time constraints, it will not be possible to include soil monitoring data from all NorForSoil countries but in a more long-term perspective this is very relevant. The network will try to lay the foundation for expansion of joint data analyses with more countries, based on the experiences from 4-5 countries.

National soil monitoring programs exist in parallel with other monitoring bodies/stakeholders such as, e.g., the LUCAS monitoring. It was discussed to what extent the different monitoring data currently/until now are used actively in reporting to national and international agreements, and for policy development and research. Are datasets used to their potential? Are variables lacking that would make the data more useful? Are stakeholders sufficiently informed about the datasets? Is access to the data sufficient?

Potentials for future development of soil monitoring systems as well as harmonization of legacy data were explored. NorForSoil will following ongoing Horizon Europe projects and initiatives, and this will, together with expertise of several NorForSoil partners, provide a basis for identifying future opportunities and important developments for soil monitoring. Projects to follow closely are the Horizon Europe projects BENCHMARKS (indicators of forest soil health), and HoliSoils (includes research on microbial diversity). Other initiatives include new EU COST activities (CleanForest) dealing with the development of soil monitoring methods and NorForSoil will get in contact with relevant representatives. Also, the HoliSoils project activities on soil data harmonization will be closely followed by NorForSoil to complement their activities rather than duplicating them.

Another opportunity and challenge for soil monitoring in the NorForSoil countries is to map the extent to which soil monitoring data can be paired with aboveground forest stand variables measured and registered in the national forest inventories. This may open the door to more complete analysis of carbon development of the whole ecosystem. This is important because all the carbon pools are interlinked by physical and chemical processes.


NorForSoil activities in the spring 2023 will focus on supporting the Ph.D.-study as much as possible, by conducting surveys to explore similarities and differences between the national soil monitoring systems, including national forest inventories, and creating links to other projects working with similar topics. NorForSoil will have an internal work seminar before the summer break, and a physical meeting by the end of the year with participation extending beyond the NorForSoil partners. Information will be posted on the project home page (here) after the summer. In addition to this, several intermediate work meetings will take place.

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