How Pre-Industrial Charcoal Changed the Soils Under Our Feet

Tragically, when some people look at the soil beneath our feet, they only see ‘dirt’. They are missing the fact that soils contribute so much to nature and our lives. But, what happens when humans alter soils from their natural state? Researchers from Cottbus, Germany, aimed to find out how charcoal production in the Northeastern US during the mid 1800s impacted the soils and ecology of the forests that we see today. Surprisingly, the answer is a little bit below the surface.

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Can you see the forest for the trees?

From iconic redwoods, to tropical palm trees, to the small windblown trees of subalpine threshold forests are just about everywhere. We assume that the vast majority of people know what a forest is and what it does, but is that so? Forests are being looked at through a new lens using new methods. Researchers are trying to answer questions like: what services do forests provide, how much biodiversity do they have, and what can be done to protect them amidst so many human and environmental threats?

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