If you’re looking for a high concentration of carbon, skip the trees and atmosphere, because soil contains more carbon than both of them combined. In fact, the highest stocks of carbon can be found where very deep soils exist – such as in the tropics.
Unfortunately, few people get to spend much time this close to deep soil. But that’s about to change with the Deep Soil Ecotron, a facility to be built at the University of Idaho that will enable scientists to conduct experiments on columns of soil up to 10 feet deep, using an $18.9M grant from the National Science Foundation.
The facility will contain as many of 24 “eco-units,” each with roughly three meters of intact soil monolith transported to Idaho from diverse places, potentially including tropical and volcanic ash soils from Hawaiʻi.
“Hawaiʻi’s soils provide key climate, weathering, and mineralogical end-members in global soil diversity, says Susan Crow of the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management. “As part of the Ecotron, Hawaiʻi’s soils will help us better understand the profound changes the earth system is currently undergoing, and hopefully better care for the earth’s ecosystems.”
By housing diverse soils together, scientists can establish a common set of experimental conditions, or subject one soil to a full set of interacting environmental variables. This capability will allow them to disentangle complex ecological processes that act together in response to climate, land use, and management change.
Susan adds, “As a co-PI, my role is to be a member of the scientific leadership team that oversees the Deep Soil Ecotron commissioning and advising a cohort of graduate students focused on professional development in large-scale project development, implementation, and management (in addition to their deep soil research).”
Read more about the Deep Soil Ecotron.