Soil Science: Getting to the Dirt

    With climate change, we are seeing trends of more severe fires in arctic boreal forests. Severity in this sense, refers to the amount of carbon lost during a forest fire. High severity burns have resulted in high carbon output. Is the soil in "severe" post burn sites allowing for successful larch tree recruitment? In other words, is the soil still those "just right" conditions for larch forests to continue to thrive in this region or are fires becoming so severe that they are changing the chemistry of the soil?

    One factor that influences seed success is the presence of nitrogen in the soil. When gardening, you may add potting soil or fertilizer to help plants grow. All plants need nutrients, but the correct amounts are not always abundant in ground soil. One of those nutrients is nitrogen.

    If larch forests are having difficulty with recruitment (growing back), nitrogen may be one factor accountable for this change.

    Therefore, scientists such as Dr. DeMarco are taking a closer look at soil. Using the scientific process, Dr. DeMarco designs experiments to collect and test nitrogen levels in soils.

    After sampling dozens of burn sites using various data collection strategies, Dr. DeMarco returns to the lab to process her samples.

    This is Dr. DeMarco's second year returning to Cherskiy on a National Science Foundation grant. She will continue to return, looking for trends among nitrogen levels in larch tree forest.

    Preparing Soil Samples
    Soil Sampling with Dr. Jennie DeMarco