Soil processes

Soil is of primary importance for the structure and functioning of the ecosystem.

For example, it plays an important role in the sequestration of atmospheric carbon (C). Soil is also a substantial storage of organic nitrogen (N), an important limiting factor for biomass growth. Soil C and N pools are intimately linked, and changes in these pools may have a significant impact on ecosystem productivity and to the radiative balance of the atmosphere.

Soil also plays a primary role in the water balance of ecosystems. It retains a significant amount of precipitation and releases it slowly to evapotranspiration and ground water. The water percolating through soil transports material between ecosystems for example in the form of dissolved organic and inorganic carbon and nitrogen.

Soils are identified as sources of several trace gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) as well as biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) and volatile organic nitrogen (VON). They have an importatn role in the climate change, air quality issues and tropospheric chemistry.

The aim of our soil studies is to quantify and understand the processes underlying the material and energy fluxes in the soil and between the soil and the atmosphere. We are studying the budgets, fluxes and processes of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and water (H2O) within boreal ecosystems. We use a multitude of measurement techniques (e.g. chambers, gas gradients and eddy covariance) to quantify the gas fluxes between soil and atmosphere. We also work with process-based modeling of C, N and water cycling within the soil and the whole ecosystem. Moreover, we use molecular biological techniques to study the effect of microbial communities, especially ectomycorrhiza, on soil processes.

Our research is multidisciplinary and combines expertise of researches having different scientific backgrounds e.g. forest ecology, soil science, environmental sciences, microbiology, genetics, limnology and physics.

Most of our field measurements are conducted at field measurement stations SMEAR I and SMEAR II with state-of-the-art measurement systems. We have watersheds/catchments for studying the water, material and gas fluxes between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. We also carry out measurement campaigns in various ecosystems and climate regions with our research partners from different universities and institutions around the world.