Soil organic layers (OL) play an important role in landatmosphere exchanges of water, energy and carbon in cold environments. The proper implementation of OL in land surface and ecosystem models is important for predicting dynamic responses to climate warming. Based on the analysis of OL samples of black spruce (Picea mariana), we recommend that implementation of OL for cold regions modeling: (1) use three general organic horizon types (live, fibrous, and amorphous) to represent vertical soil heterogeneity; (2) implement dynamics of OL over the course of disturbance, as there are significant differences of OL thickness between young and mature stands; and (3) use two broad drainage classes to characterize spatial heterogeneity, as there are significant differences in OL thickness between dry and wet sites. Implementation of these suggestions into models has the potential to substantially improve how OL dynamics influence variability in surface temperature and soil moisture in cold regions. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophys.ical Union.