Data from National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Helps Unlock the Role of Deep Soil in Carbon Storage

Science Foundation
funded the NEON program, managed by Battelle,
with the intent of generating ecological data for researchers across a
wide variety of study areas.

A new study published in Nature Climate Change, authored by Dr.
Marc G. Kramer and Dr. Oliver A. Chadwick, examines the role of reactive
minerals in supporting carbon sequestration in soil. “Climate-Driven
Thresholds in Reactive Mineral Retention of Soil Carbon at the Global
,” quantified how much carbon is bound with reactive minerals
in soil from different ecosystems around the world. Their analysis used
soil samples from 47 NEON field sites in addition to a global soil data
set from North America , Indonesia, Europe, Central America and South
America. The results suggest that reactive minerals in deep soils play a
much bigger role in global carbon sequestration than has previously been

An estimated 600 megatons of carbon is currently held by reactive
minerals in soils around the world—more than twice the amount of carbon
that humans have added to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution
began. Understanding the pathways and variables that influence carbon
sequestration in soil could lead to new ideas to combat climate change
and protect vulnerable ecosystems.

The new study quantified how carbon bound with reactive minerals changes
across different climate zones. The researchers wanted to shed light on
the role climate plays in reactive minerals storage in soils in
ecosystems around the world.

“This is one of the most important pathways for long-term carbon
retention, but it hasn’t been extensively studied at the global scale in
relation to climate,” Kramer said. “We wanted to look at a global scale
to get a better understanding of the links between rainfall, reactive
mineral carbon storage, and how shifts in climate patterns may change
this pathway in the future.”

Comparing different ecosystems, Kramer saw that moist environments
sequestered far more carbon than dry ones. In desert climates, where
rain is scarce and water easily evaporates, reactive minerals retain
less than 6 percent of the soil’s organic carbon. Dry forests are not
much better. But wet forests can have as much as half their total carbon
bound up by reactive minerals.

Kramer and Chadwick used soil samples from the NEON project because they
span climate zones across all of North America, including deserts,
grassland, dry forest, wet forest and tundra areas. NEON collects
physical soil
from each of the terrestrial field sites for biogeochemical,
physical and organismal analysis. Archival
are available to outside researchers who need physical
samples to conduct their own analysis. This study used samples collected
from “megapits” dug up to 2m deep during the construction of each
terrestrial NEON field site, providing a comprehensive set
of samples
of known provenance collected from each of the 20 North
American ecoclimatic
NEON domains.
The team combined these data with a global soils data
set which included samples from North America, New Caledonia, Indonesia,
Europe, Central America and Brazil.

The NEON program produces a wide range of open
access data
and archival
that can be used to solve key questions in research studies
of carbon sequestration and climate. In addition to soil samples, a wide
variety of meteorological measurements are collected at NEON field
sites, including temperature, humidity, precipitation, and fluxes of
carbon, water, and energy between terrestrial ecosystems and the
atmosphere. NEON also collects measurements
of soil moisture, soil CO2 and temperature
as well as organismal
field sampling data
to better understand how our ecosystems are
changing over time.

“As NEON nears completion of the construction phase and moves into full
operation, more and more data will become available for use by
researchers across a wide range of disciplines fulfilling the goals of
this important, unprecedented initiative by the NSF in partnership with
Battelle,” said Gene Kelly, Chief Scientist and Observatory Director.

program, managed by Battelle
for the National
Science Foundation
, is a continental-scale ecological observation
facility that collects and provides open data from 81 field sites across
the United States that characterize and quantify how our nation’s
ecosystems are changing. The data will contribute to a better
understanding and more accurate forecasting of how human activities
impact ecosystems and how society can more effectively address critical
ecological questions and issues. The data is available for any
researcher to use. Learn more at

About Battelle

Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to
solving what matters most. At major technology centers and national
laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and
development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical
services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in
Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national
security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental
industries. For more information, visit

For more information contact Katy Delaney at (614) 424-7208 or at
or contact T.R. Massey at (614) 424-5544 or at


Katy Delaney at (614) 424-7208 or at
Massey at (614) 424-5544 or at

error: Content is protected !!