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Forest soils Research and Innovation Action

Proposals shall aim at strengthening the knowledge base of forest soil typology and (micro)biological properties including methodologies for soil analysis. They shall address soil functions in relation to their climate change mitigation capacity given by organic carbon stocks and associated fluxes - representative for the variety of forest ecosystems and production systems in Europe. Specific emphasis in the proposal shall be put on several of the following research areas:

Improved, integrated and harmonised methods for estimation of carbon, nitrogen and base cation stocks and fluxes in soils, in relation to forest management systems/practices, land-use history and their impact on greenhouse gas inventories and the corresponding monitoring framework;

Effects of natural disturbances and associated relief measures on carbon and nitrogen stocks/fluxes, including the vulnerability and the upper ecological limit of the soil organic carbon pool (i.e. saturation);

Effects of forest management practices on soil properties, including microbial diversity and activity, nutrient availability (e.g. C, N, P, K, Mg, Ca), organic matter quality, acidity, etc.;

Effects of drainage, rewetting and other management practices in forest-like wetlands on carbon, nitrogen and base cation stocks and fluxes;

Trade-offs and synergies between microbial activity in the soil organic and mineral layers and other ecosystem services, including functional biodiversity[[See also the topic LC-CLA-06-2019 for inter-relations between climate change and biodiversity]]water cycles, etc.

National research institutes and other entities looking into forest soils research and mapping, as well as LULUCF sector of greenhouse gas inventories, are specifically encouraged to take part in the Consortia submitting proposals to this competitive call.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of the order of EUR 10 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Soil continually undergoes development through physical, chemical and biological processes, which include both formation and degradation. Ultimately, it sustains primary production, which is directly related to land management practices and associated soil types. There are several challenges associated with forest soils, such as water availability and erosion, depositions of air pollutants and nitrogen, natural disturbances such as storms, pathogens and wildfires, and impacts of forest practices intensification on compacting, biodiversity and fertility of soils. Forest soils also have a key climate change mitigation dimension, as they contain more carbon than the atmosphere, and improving forest management could decrease emissions, leading to an accumulation of soil carbon stocks. However, they are also subject to the general limitations associated with the LULUCF (land use, land use-change and forestry) sector, such as non-permanence and saturation of carbon stock and the challenges associated with emissions and removals of greenhouse gases (nitrous oxide, methane and CO2). Several sustainable land management practices conducive to enhanced carbon sinks in forest soils are often put forward, such as avoidance of bare soil (including reduced deforestation), close-to-nature forestry including shelterwood cutting, promotion of nitrogen-fixing and mycorrhizal plants/symbionts, etc. However, the full range and limitation of soil-related climate change mitigation avenues are still to be fully understood, let alone put into practice.

In the framework of SDG 3, 13 and 15, the EU's Bioeconomy Strategy 2012/2018, the EU's Forest Strategy 2013, Paris Agreement 2015, LULUCF Regulation 2018, proposals are expected to assess how they will contribute to:

In the short to medium term, improved and harmonised methodologies for estimation of greenhouse gas emissions and removals in the LULUCF sector Europe-wide;

In the medium to long term, strengthened knowledge base and capacity for forest managers to adopt sylvicultural techniques and forest management practices conducive to enhanced contribution of the sector to the global climate change mitigation objectives whilst enhancing forest biodiversity, resilience and overall ecosystem service delivery;

In the medium to long term, more sustainable forest management and contribution of the forest-based sector to increasing and diversifying societal demands upon forest-based products and service.