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Soil Atlas of the Northern Circumpolar Region
The SOIL Action (22004) of the Joint Research Centre's Land Management and Natural Hazards Unit (H07) has just completed a comprehensive three year collaborative project to collate information on soil in northern latitudes.
The 144 pages atlas is the result of a three-year collaborative project with partners from northern EU countries, as well as Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, the USA and Russia and gives a detailed overview of circumpolar soil resources relevant also to agriculture, forest management, water management, land use planning, infrastructure and housing and energy transport networks. In a clear style, the atlas describes the origin and major characteristics of the different soil types that can be found in this environment. The atlas is a visually stunning publication using striking maps, informative texts and dramatic photographs to explain and illustrate the great diversity of soils in northern landscapes.
The atlas aims to :
- support EU policies such as the ERA, the Soil Thematic Strategy, the Northern Dimension and Climate Change;
- promote the soil related activities and global dimension of the JRC,
- bring circumpolar soils into policy focus by identifying needs for policy and research strategies aimed at soil protection and mitigating climate change with specific emphasis on soils.
Key Message 1: One of the resulting outputs is the first ever Soils Atlas of the Northern Circumpolar Region � encompassing all land surfaces in Eurasia and North America above the latitude of 50o N.
Key Message 2: The main goal of the atlas is to inform the general public, policy makers, land managers, teachers and the general scientific community of the unique characteristics of northern soil and raise awareness of its environmental importance and global significance.
Key Message 3: Unbeknown to most people, soil in the northern latitudes store up to half of the Earth�s soil carbon; about twice the amount of carbon stored in the atmosphere. The importance of this carbon sink is immeasurable. Permanently frozen ground keeps this organic carbon locked in the soil and, together with extensive peatlands, ensures that northern circumpolar soils are a significant carbon sink .
Key Message 4: While most people are aware of the reduction in Arctic sea ice extent, the majority are unaware of the impact of global warming on soil. Increased temperatures in the Arctic and boreal regions are causing permafrost-affected areas to thaw thus ensuring that the huge mass of poorly decomposed organic matter that is presently locked in the frozen soil will start to decompose. As a result of this decay, significant quantities of greenhouse gases (e.g. CO2, CH4, N2O) could be released into the atmosphere. These emissions can initiate a snow-ball effect that will increase greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at an accelerating rate and greatly intensify the processes driving climate change.
M�ire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, launched the Atlas on 4th May 2010 in Brussels at the European Parliament at the inauguration of an exhibition on the work of the Commission's Joint Research Centre .
Press release: New atlas underlines significant role of northern soils in climate change
In a clear style, the atlas describes the origin and major characteristics of the different soil types that can be found in this environment. The atlas discusses the possible impacts of climate change on permafrost-affected soils and explains the critical role that they play in the global climate and global carbon cycles. 6. For the first time ever, the distribution of soil types for the entire northern circumpolar region can be visualised in a comprehensible manner by the lay-person. Information on the major soil types is presented in detail on twenty six map plates (the atlas has an A3 page size giving a dramatic A2 spread for maps). In a novel exercise, the World Reference Base for Soil Resources has been used as a framework for correlating knowledge from diverse national soil classification systems into a single, coherent, inter-continental product.
Undertaken under the auspices of the International Polar Year Programme (IPY), the atlas positively showcases collaboration between the JRC and internationally renowned soil scientists from northern countries within the EU, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, the USA and Russia. In addition to the preface from Commissioner Potocnik, the atlas is supported by the Director-General of the JRC, Prof. Jerry Brown (Woods Hole Inst.), the outgoing President of the International Permafrost Association, and Prof. Vladimir Kotlyakov, Head of the Russian Arctic Programme of the Russian Academy of Science and IPY Joint Committee Member.
The atlas illustrates the diversity of soil in the permafrost and seasonally frozen environments through a series of maps supported by explanatory and easily readable texts, high quality photographs and descriptive graphics. The atlas presents the reader with a series of maps that show the variation of soil properties in a circumpolar context and from a polar perspective, allowing comparisons to be made across international boundaries. In addition, larger scale maps show the distribution of major soil types by regions with descriptions of the major issues. The maps have been produced through the elaboration of harmonized soil databases for the northern circumpolar areas by Geographic Information Systems software (GIS).Through supporting texts, the atlas describes the major soil types found in northern latitudes, together with their principal properties and characteristics, the main soil forming processes, the importance of soil classification and the use of soil.
Special attention is given to impact of cold climates on soil characteristics and on the relationship between climate change and soils properties (e.g. carbon dynamics, carbon sinks and sources, methane emission). In addition, the atlas illustrates how soil can be used as indicators of past climate change and present examples local and regional perspectives of the importance and functions of soil for society as a whole and particularly for indigenous northern cultures.