Fact Sheets

Soil Carbon and Forest Management – Focus on the Great Lakes Region (FS-22-09)

Soil is the foundation of forest ecosystems, and soil organic matter, which is mostly carbon, supports many ecosystem functions. It recycles nutrients critical for plant growth, is the base of a food web that supports biodiversity, and retains and releases water, protecting against erosion and improving water quality. Soil carbon is also important, as soils hold more carbon than the global atmosphere and all plants combined, thus making soils a critical component of the climate system. As carbon accounting and monitoring have become important parts of reporting initiatives and sustainability practices, forest stakeholders are increasingly focused on soils, both because of their carbon storage and because they support forests’ capacity to adapt to climate change and recover from disturbances.

This fact sheet provides an overview of soil organic matter in forests and how various forest management practices affect soil carbon. It examines soil carbon issues specific to the forest products industry in the Great Lakes region, and suggests guidelines for protecting carbon in the soil during harvesting.

Keywords: soil carbon, soil, carbon, forest, forest management, Lake States, Great Lakes, carbon accounting, US, Canada, carbon storage