Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub


    Forest soil organic carbon (SOC) is one of the largest terrestrial C pools, and it is not static. Soils are inherently dynamic; furthermore, global change and management can alter how much C is stored in a forest soil and how it is distributed across depths or functionally distinct pools. Over management-relevant timescales, forest soil C varies more across space - due to fundamental factors such as parent material, climate, and vegetation - than it does over time, except in cases of abuse (which deplete SOC). In this review, we discuss the stocks and management of forest SOC through the lens of 13 Global Ecological Zones (UN FAO climate-vegetation units) and 17 major soil types (IUSS WRB Reference Soil Groups). We use these spatial units to constrain generalizations derived from a wideranging literature survey and qualitative synthesis aimed at four objectives. For each ecological zone, we: (1) identify key SOC vulnerabilities in the context of global change and management, (2) discuss management strategies for minimizing SOC losses associated with those vulnerabilities, and (3) suggest opportunities for increasing SOC through management. As our fourth objective, within each ecological zone, we contextualize SOC management considerations according to the unique properties possessed by its most widespread soils, in order to add meaningful detail to this global review, anticipate where exceptions will occur, and provide a tractable basis for management intended to affect SOC. Key generalizations are: (1) SOC pools at or near the surface are vulnerable to disturbances that alter the processes responsible for maintenance of those pools; management that restores or maintains those processes can often reverse SOC losses over decadal timescales. (2) SOC in subsoils is typically less vulnerable to short-term losses, but the factors that promote this stability are difficult to manipulate in a positive direction through management. (3) SOC is one integral component of forest ecosystems, and as such is often not managed directly but through its interactions with other parts, such as the vegetation, according to constraints imparted by fundamental bottom-up factors (parent material and soil characteristics).

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Nave, Luke; Marin-Spiotta, Erika; Ontl, Todd; Peters, Matt; Swanston, Chris. 2019. Soil carbon management [Chapter 11]. In: Busse, Matt; Giardina, Christian P.; Morris, Dave M.; Page, Dumroese, Deborah S. Global change and forest soils: Cultivating stewardship of a finite natural resource. Developments in Soil Science, Vol. 36. Elsevier. p. 215-257.


    Google Scholar


    forest soil organic carbon (SOC), soil carbon management, C pools

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page