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Penn State Soil Characterization Lab

Soil is an integral part of ecosystem function. There are 29 million acres (11,735,884 hectares) of soil in Pennsylvania supporting: wetlands; forest lands; agricultural lands; urban lands; homes, businesses, and roads; our drinking and wastewater filtration. Without soil, these activities and functions would be much more difficult and in some cases even impossible, for soil is as precious to our lives as the very blood in our bodies.

Research in the Soil Characterization Laboratory focuses on people’s use of landscapes and the accompanying changes in soil function across the larger ecosystem the soil supports. Dr. Drohan’s research group addresses basic science questions, but also demonstrates how this new knowledge can be applied to improve land management and ecosystem stability.

Soil Characterization Lab News

NEW PAPER: Short-term Forecasting Tools for Agricultural Nutrient Management
May 9, 2017
The advent of real-time, short-term farm management tools is motivated by the need to protect water quality above and beyond the general guidance offered by existing nutrient management plans. Advances in high-performance computing and hydrologic or climate modeling have enabled rapid dissemination of real-time information that can assist landowners and conservation personnel with short-term management planning. This paper reviews short-term decision support tools for agriculture that are under various stages of development and implementation in the United States: (i) Wisconsin’s Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast (RRAF) System, (ii) New York’s Hydrologically Sensitive Area Prediction Tool, (iii) Virginia’s Saturated Area Forecast Model, (iv) Pennsylvania’s Fertilizer Forecaster, (v) Washington’s Application Risk Management (ARM) System, and (vi) Missouri’s Design Storm Notification System. Although these decision support tools differ in their underlying model structure, the resolution at which they are applied, and the hydroclimates to which they are relevant, all provide forecasts (range 24–120 h) of runoff risk or soil moisture saturation derived from National Weather Service Forecast models. Although this review highlights the need for further development of robust and well-supported short-term nutrient management tools, their potential for adoption and ultimate utility requires an understanding of the appropriate context of application, the strategic and operational needs of managers, access to weather forecasts, scales of application (e.g., regional vs. field level), data requirements, and outreach communication structure.
Our research makes the news: Shale gas threat to forests can be eased by consolidating infrastructure
April 19, 2017
By Jeff Mulhollem April 19, 2017 .. .. UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Fragmentation of ecologically important core forests within the northern Appalachians — driven by pipeline and access road construction — is the major threat posed by shale-gas development, according to researchers, who recommend a change in infrastructure-siting policies to head off loss of this critical habitat.
NEW PAPER: Linear infrastructure drives habitat conversion and forest fragmentation associated with Marcellus shale gas development in a forested landscape
April 3, 2017
Highlights: Pipelines comprised the largest portion of the shale gas industry footprint; Pipelines were the largest contributor to the fragmentation of core forest; Loss of core forest was double on private land compared to public land; Methods to consolidate pipelines with other infrastructure should be used; New pads should be placed near existing pipelines to reduce further fragmentation.