Daniel D. Richter

Daniel D. Richter

Professor of Soils and Forest Ecology

Richter’s research and teaching links soils with ecosystems and the wider environment, most recently Earth scientists’ Critical Zone.  He focuses on how humanity is transforming Earth’s soils from natural to human-natural systems, specifically how land-uses alter soil processes and properties on time scales of decades, centuries, and millennia.  Richter's book, Understanding Soil Change (Cambridge University Press), co-authored with his former PhD student Daniel Markewitz (Professor at University of Georgia), explores a legacy of soil change across the Southern Piedmont of North America, from the acidic soils of primary hardwood forests that covered the region until 1800, through the marked transformations affected by long-cultivated cotton, to contemporary soils of rapidly growing and intensively managed pine forests.  Richter and colleagues work to expand the concept of soil as the full biogeochemical weathering system of the Earth’s crust, ie, the Earth’s belowground Critical Zone, which can be tens of meters deep.  The research examines decadal to millennial changes in the chemistry and cycling of soil C, N, P, Ca, K, Mg, and trace elements B, Fe, Mn, Cu, Be, Zr, and Zn across full soil profiles as deep at 30-m.  Since 1988, Richter has worked at and directed the Long-Term Calhoun Soil-Ecosystem Experiment (LTSE) in the Piedmont of South Carolina, a collaborative study with the USDA Forest Service that quantifies how soils form as natural bodies and are transformed by human action, and a study that has grown to become an international model for such long-term soil and ecosystem studies.  In 2005, Richter and students initiated the first comprehensive international inventory project of the world’s LTSEs, using an advanced-format website that has networked metadata from 250 LTSEs.  The LTSEs project has held three workshops at Duke University, NCSU's Center for Environmental Farming Systems, and the USDA Forest Service's Calhoun Experimental Forest and Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, hosting representatives from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas.  Richter's 60-year old Long Term Calhoun Soil and Ecosystem Experiment is linked to similar experiments and platforms around the world via the ‘Long-Term Soil-Ecosystem Experiments Global Inventory’, assembled by Dan Richter, Pete Smith, and Mike Hofmockel."He is an active member of the International Commission on Stratigraphy’s Working Group on the Anthropocene.  Richter has written in the peer-reviewed literature about all of these projects, and in November 2014 his soils research at the Calhoun and his soils teaching were featured in Science magazine.

In The News


Parolari, AJ, Mobley, ML, Bacon, AR, Katul, GG, Richter, DD, and Porporato, A. "Boom and bust carbon-nitrogen dynamics during reforestation." Ecological Modelling 360 (September 2017): 108-119.

Brevik, EC, Richter, DD, Verrecchia, EP, Ryan, J, Poch, RM, Crouvi, O, Sauer, D, Waroszewski, J, Solleiro-Rebolledo, E, Monger, C, Ottner, F, and Targulian, V. "The influence of Dan H. Yaalon: His impact on people." Catena 146 (November 2016): 147-154.

McEwen, AR, Hsu-Kim, H, Robins, NA, Hagan, NA, Halabi, S, Barras, O, Richter, DD, and Vandenberg, JJ. "Residential metal contamination and potential health risks of exposure in adobe brick houses in Potosí, Bolivia." The Science of the Total Environment 562 (August 2016): 237-246.

Dialynas, YG, Bastola, S, Bras, RL, Billings, SA, Markewitz, D, and Richter, DD. "Topographic variability and the influence of soil erosion on the carbon cycle." Global Biogeochemical Cycles 30, no. 5 (May 2016): 644-660.

Ladha, JK, Tirol-Padre, A, Reddy, CK, Cassman, KG, Verma, S, Powlson, DS, van Kessel, C, de B Richter, D, Chakraborty, D, and Pathak, H. "Global nitrogen budgets in cereals: A 50-year assessment for maize, rice, and wheat production systems." Scientific Reports 6 (January 18, 2016): 19355-null.

Recent Grants


SCISOC 490: Special Topics in Genome Sciences (SCISOC 490: Special Topics in Genome Sciences)
ENVIRON 593: Independent Studies and Projects (ENVIRON 593: Independent Studies and Projects)
ENVIRON 390: Special Topics in Environmental Sciences and Policy (ENVIRON 390: Special Topics in Environmental Sciences and Policy)
ENGLISH 490: Special Topics in Language and Literature (ENGLISH 490: Special Topics in Language and Literature)
ENVIRON 394: Research Independent Study (ENVIRON 394: Research Independent Study)

Contact Information

A205 Lab; Lev Sci Res Ctr, Science Dr.
Durham, NC 27708
Box 90328
Durham, NC 27708-0328


Ph.D., Duke University (1980)
B.A., Lehigh University (1973)

Additional Resources