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CAREER: Spatial Aspects of Pedogenesis and Soil Organic Carbon in the Great Lakes Region

This CAREER research program addresses integrated, long-term research and educational activities that focus on the geography of soils as they relate to environmental issues in the Great Lakes region. Soils assume an important role in global climate change because they constitute a sizable terrestrial carbon pool subject to alteration at a variety of time scales. Human land-use activities may affect the amount of carbon stored in the subsurface horizons of the acid, sandy parent materials common in northern Michigan by altering the delicate balance between processes of soil development and soil degradation (depodzolization). This research explores the mechanisms by which soils develop and degrade, as well as the spatial distribution of these mechanisms in the upper Great Lakes region. Comparison of soil development rates along a latitudinal transect will be accomplished by intensive sampling of four strand plain beach ridge chronosequences. The seasonal movement of ions in soils on the beach ridges will be studied by long-term monitoring of the soil solution. Human-induced soil degradation will be investigated by comparing soil solutions from soils under forest and non-forest vegetation types. Organic carbon dynamics in subsurface horizons will be examined by a carbon isotope analysis using AMS radiocarbon dating of the organic carbon from different depths. Differences in ages of this organic carbon under forest and non-forest vegetation are expected to reflect the magnitude of the depodzolization processes taking place in the non-forest sites.<br/><br/>Research activities will be complemented by educational activities designed to introduce undergraduate and graduate students with little science background to a variety of environmental issues. Specific emphasis will be placed on soils and the role of soil as a terrestrial carbon pool. At the undergraduate level, activities will focus on the development of Internet-based, student-centered learning activities for use as modules in two introductory courses. Two new graduate courses will be developed, and they will use a project-based approach to help students explore environmental issues in geography and land use planning, including one course in which soil maps and other digital geospatial data will be used to estimate regional soil carbon pools.

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Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Region.