U.S. Department of Energy


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The DOE Consortium for Research on Enhancing Carbon Sequestration in Terrestrial Ecosystems (CSiTE) conducts multi-scale research to acquire basic knowledge for underpinning the implementation of soil carbon (C) sequestration in an environmentally acceptable and economically feasible manner. Research is based on the premise that identifying and understanding the basic mechanisms controlling sequestration across managed and unmanaged ecosystems are fundamental to developing approaches for enhancing C capture and long-term storage. The goal is to discover and characterize links among physical, chemical, and biological processes controlling soil C dynamics and storage at a mechanistic level to facilitate the enhancement of C storage in soils to restore or surpass historical levels of organic matter in managed ecosystems. Integration across scientific themes occurs by coordinating research efforts at field sites where land-use practices, experimental manipulations, or chronosequences afford opportunities to observe climate and land-use impacts on soil C and understand the associated environmental and economic consequences of implementing sequestration strategies over relevant time scales.
During 6 years of laboratory, field, and modeling research in forest, cropland, and tallgrass prairie ecosystems, CSiTE research resulted in more than 150 refereed publications. Important contributions include elucidation of controls on the mechanisms and rates of accumulation of soil organic matter, development and application of new methods to understand the role of microbial communities in soil C dynamics, identification of novel field manipulation concepts for enhancing soil C sequestration, refinement of modeling tools and their use in supporting hypothesis-driven science, understanding landscape-scale processes, and application to full greenhouse gas accounting and evaluation of economic feasibility.
Beginning in FY 2007, CSiTE will reorganize around seven scientific themes and coordinate research activities around field experiments with switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) at Milan, Tennessee, and the Fermilab site at Batavia, Illinois. The overarching hypothesis is that simultaneous biofuel production and enhancement of soil C sequestration is sustainable. The seven themes are 1) Soil Carbon Inputs, 2) Soil Structural Controls, 3) Microbial Community Function and Dynamics, 4) Humification Chemistry, 5) Intrasolum Carbon Transport, 6) Mechanistic Modeling, and 7) Integrated Evaluation. The overall goal to understand coupled physical, chemical, and biological controls over soil C sequestration at a fundamental level remains unchanged. However, by using the production of switchgrass, an important bioenergy crop, as our test bed to study carbon sequestration in an intensive, vertically integrated study, our findings will have immediate application to the successful development of an important energy technology. CSiTE is a research collaboration among Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory including affiliated academic institutions.