Decomposability of soil organic matter over time: the Soil Incubation Database (SIDb, version 1.0) and guidance for incubation procedures

claire.treat [ at ]


The magnitude of carbon (C) loss to the atmosphere via microbial decomposition is a function of the amount of C stored in soils, the quality of the organic matter, and physical, chemical, and biological factors that comprise the environment for decomposition. The decomposability of C is commonly assessed by laboratory soil incubation studies that measure greenhouse gases mineralized from soils under controlled conditions. Here, we introduce the Soil Incubation Database (SIDb) version 1.0, a compilation of time series data from incubations, structured into a new, publicly available, open-access database of C flux (carbon dioxide, CO2, or methane, CH4). In addition, the SIDb project also provides a platform for the development of tools for reading and analysis of incubation data as well as documentation for future use and development. In addition to introducing SIDb, we provide reporting guidance for database entry and the required variables that incubation studies need at minimum to be included in SIDb. A key application of this synthesis effort is to better characterize soil C processes in Earth system models, which will in turn reduce our uncertainty in predicting the response of soil C decomposition to a changing climate. We demonstrate a framework to fit curves to a number of incubation studies from diverse ecosystems, depths, and organic matter content using a built-in model development module that integrates SIDb with the existing SoilR package to estimate soil C pools from time series data. The database will help bridge the gap between point location measurements, which are commonly used in incubation studies, and global remote-sensed data or data products derived from models aimed at assessing global-scale rates of decomposition and C turnover. The SIDb version 1.0 is archived and publicly available at (Sierra et al., 2020), and the database is managed under a version-controlled system and centrally stored in GitHub (, last access: 26 June 2020).

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.5194/essd-12-1511-2020

Cite as
Schädel, C. , Beem-Miller, J. , Aziz Rad, M. , Crow, S. E. , Hicks Pries, C. E. , Ernakovich, J. , Hoyt, A. M. , Plante, A. , Stoner, S. , Treat, C. C. and Sierra, C. A. (2020): Decomposability of soil organic matter over time: the Soil Incubation Database (SIDb, version 1.0) and guidance for incubation procedures , Earth System Science Data, 12 (3), pp. 1511-1524 . doi: 10.5194/essd-12-1511-2020


Download (6MB) | Preview

Download (239kB) | Preview



Research Platforms


Edit Item Edit Item