SoilSoc Research

Research projects Thesis abstracts

Carbon sequestration and soil development under mountain birch (Betula pubescens) in restored areas in southern Iceland

Institute / Organisation / Unit: School of Natural resources at the Ohio State University (, Agricultural University of Iceland ( and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland (

Research director / Project Leader / Student Supervision: Dr. Brian K. Slater, The Ohio State University and Dr. Ólafur Arnalds, Agricultural University of Iceland.

Other researchers: Dr. Guđmundur Haldórsson, Soil conservation service of Iceland, Prof. Ása L. Aradóttir, Agricultural University of Iceland, Prof. Bjarni D. Sigurđsson Agricultural University of Iceland.

M.Sc. Student responsible:Páll Kolka (starting date summer 2008)

Discription: Iceland has suffered from severe soil erosion since settlement with losses up to 60% of pre-settlement vegetation. Large land remediation projects are underway using Betula pubescens. A huge potential for carbon sequestration exists by this revegetation of degraded areas. Little is known about soil development when using native forest vegetation for land restoration. This study aims to both estimate the carbon storage and sequestration rate in these systems and establish constrains on the pedogenetic factors and their influence on soil development. A chronosequence of afforested areas, both natural succession from sown plots and planted areas, reaching 60 years back has been established and compared to natural old-growth forests in the same area. 3 subplots were identified for each age group and soil sampled along transects in each plot. Soil profiles were described, sampled and water content sensors installed at representative sites. Soil samples are analysed for allophane, ferrohydrite contents, CEC, AEC and variable charge, total C, total N. Selected samples are flushed with pyrophosphate to estimate OM in metal-humus complexes. Water retention and soil microbial biomass is also measured in profile samples. Preliminary results show stronger horizination with age as well as lowering of pH in all horizons, increased carbon storage and CEC with time as well as lower bulk density in at least the surface horizons.