The National Soil Carbon Network: A 'Stone Soup' Approach to Sharing Data, Infrastructure and Expertise

Chris Swanston*
Northern Institute of Applied Carbon Science
USDA Forest Service
410 MacInnes Dr
Houghton, MI 49931

The National Soil Carbon Network (NSCN; is a multi-component, science-based network created to enhance communication, collaboration, efficient use of scientific resources, and the advancement of soil carbon research. The NSCN is self-chartered and is the result of the interest from research scientists associated with a variety of agencies and institutions. It is anticipated that the NSCN will play a vital role in multiple national carbon cycle programs by helping to identify and fill data gaps in national-scale soil carbon data coverage and facilitate spatially explicit assessments of soil carbon turnover and vulnerability through multiple approaches to modeling and experimentation. We have three fundamental focus areas: Synthesis, Prediction, and Measurement. Synthesis efforts involve (1) database development: supporting the development of a coherent, searchable, and expandable database designed for use by individual and small-group research efforts; and (2) data synthesis: combining data from multiple large datasets, including multiple data input forms, and facilitating the production of synthesis products related to soil carbon distribution and vulnerability. Prediction efforts involve the use of the database and data synthesis products to better inform process models and risk maps, as well as aid in identification of data gaps. Networked measurement efforts involve the sharing of infrastructure, personnel, and expertise to fill gaps in data and knowledge. A common theme in all major focus areas is facilitating community organization through issue-based workshops and advanced website engineering for database interaction and community discussion. All of these activities will contribute to the coordination of multi-scale, interdisciplinary research within the larger scientific community. This presentation will cover the origin of the network, current support and activities, and next steps for growth and community involvement.

*Corresponding Author: Phone: 906-482-6303 x20, Email: