Response of the soil ecosystem to the changing climate: in situ observations in deciduous forests

2012-2013 E²SHI Seed Grant

Research Team

Katalin Szlavecz (Principal Investigator)
Associate Research Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, School of Arts & Sciences

Andreas Terzis, former Associate Professor, Department of Computer Sciences, School of Engineering

Benjamin Zaitchik, Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, School of Arts & Sciences

Soil is a major resource and the most important reservoir of carbon in the temperate zone. The carbon balance of the world’s ecosystems and the response of these systems to disturbances, such as changing climate, remain uncertain. The rate of carbon transformations below ground is unknown and contributes to this uncertainty.

Researchers Katalin Szlavecz, Andreas Terzis and Benjamin Zaitchik combined field observations, manipulations and modeling to examine changes in leaf litter decomposition rate, soil organic matter transformations, and soil carbon dioxide (CO2) and trace gas fluxes. The goal: to measure the amount and intensity of rainfall and leaf litter in different types of forests (different age and successional stages), including measuring soil CO2, methane (CH4) fluxes and soil carbon content. With the foundations for the project laid out, they hope to expand the project further to install continuous CO2 sensors at different soil depths nearby the irrigation plots. These will capture changes during transient events even if the researcher is not in the field.


Chun, J.A., Szlavecz, K., Bernard, M., Ferrer, D. Hom, J., Saliendra, N. (2014). "Estimation of CO2 effluxes from suburban forest floor and grass using a process-based model." Atmospheric Environment, 97, pp. 346-352.

Szlavecz, K.A. (2013). "Three generations of wireless sensor networks to monitor the soil ecosystem." American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2013, abstract #IN44A-04. 

Smith, C.J., So, S., Xia, L., Pitz, S., Szlavecz, K., Carlson, D., Terzis, A., Wysocki, G. (2013). "Wireless laser spectroscopic sensor node for atmospheric CO2 monitoring - laboratory and field test." Applied Physics B: Lasers & Optics, 110(2), pp. 241-248.

Photo credit: debabrata

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