soil organic carbon

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JRC Visitors'Centre: May Nov 2015

Soil Organic Carbon

Luca MontanarellaDG JRC.D.3Chair of the GSP Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS)Co-Chair of the IPBES Land Degradation and Restoration Assessment (LDRA)

The European Commissionsscience and knowledge serviceJoint Research Centre


THE 27 SCIENTSTS MEMBERS OF THE ITPS 2015-2017Proposed by GSP Partners and nominated by FAO Members

NORTH AMERICA Mr. Dan Pennock (Canada) Mr. Gary M. Pierzynsky (United States of America)EUROPE Chair: Mr. Luca Montanarella (EC) Mr. Gunay Erpul (Turkey) Mr. Rainer Horn (Germany) Mr. Peter de Ruiter (The Netherlands) Mr. Pavel Krasilnikov (Russian Federation)AFRICA Mr. Nsalambi V. Nkongolo (Democratic Republic of Congo) Mr. Bhanooduth Lalljee (Mauritius) Mr. Martin Yemefack (Cameroon) Ms. Isaurinda dos Santos Baptista Costa (Cape Verde) Ms. Botle Mapeshoane (Lesotho)ASIA Mr. Patiram Brajendra (India) Mr. Sopon Chomchan (Thailand) Mr. Kazuyuki Yagi (Japan) Mr. Bahriuloom Amanullah (Pakistan) Mr. Gan-Lin Zhang (China)LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN Mr. Juan Antonio Comerma (Venezuela) Mr. Miguel Taboada (Argentina) Ms. Maria de Lourdes Mendonca Santos Breffin (Brazil) Mr. Fernando Garcia Prchach (Uruguay) Ms. Oneyda Hernandez Lara (Cuba)NEAR EAST Mr. Talal Darwish (Lebanon) Mr. Ahmad S. Muhaimeed (Iraq) Mr. Sab AbdelHaleem Khresat (Jordan)SOUTH WEST PACIFIC Mr. Neil McKenzie (Australia) Mr. Siosiua Halavatau (Tonga)



Land Resources Unit


To study soils you need to dig a pit:

Soils are Alive!

Soils deliver multiple services (soil functions as identified in the Soil Thematic Strategy COM(2006) 231):Biomass production, including in agriculture and forestry;Storing, filtering and transforming nutrients, substances and water;Biodiversity pool, such as habitats, species and genes;Physical and cultural environment for humans and human activities;Source of raw materials;Acting as carbon pool;Archive of geological and archeological heritage.


5 December 2015

Summary of Status and Trends of Soil Threats by region

Global Soil Organic CarbonContact Details:Roland Hiederer European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Environment and Sustainability TP 261 21027 Ispra (VA) - Italy e-mail: roland.hiederer(at)

#Distribution of Soil Organic Carbon in the Northern Circumpolar Region

Carbon pools were estimated to be 191.29 Pg for the 030 cm depth, 495.80 Pg for the 0100 cm depth, and 1024.00 Pg for the 0300 cm depth. Carbon pools in layers deeper than 300 cm were estimated to be 407 Pg in yedoma deposits and 241 Pg in deltaic deposits. In total, the northern permafrost region contains approximately 1672 Pg of organic carbon, of which approximately 1466 Pg, or 88%, occurs in perennially frozen soils and deposits. This 1672 Pg of organic carbon would account for approximately 50% of the estimated global belowground organic carbon pool.Tarnocai, C., J. G. Canadell, E. A. G. Schuur, P. Kuhry, G. Mazhitova, and S. Zimov (2009), Soil organic carbon pools in the northern circumpolar permafrost region, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 23, GB2023, doi:10.1029/2008GB003327.

#Peatland and wetlands store the majority of the global soil organic carbon

Global Peatland Initiative

Soil C Dynamics Need for soil monitoring

Source: R. Lal, 2008A schematic of the soil C dynamics upon conversion from a natural to agricultural ecosystem, and subsequent adoption of recommended management practices (RMPs). In most cases, the maximum potential equals the magnitude of historic C loss. Only using some practices, like addition of stable Biochar, or similar technologies, the adoption of RMPs can increase the SOC pool above that of the natural system.


Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil ManagementMinimize soil erosionEnhance soil organic matter contentFoster soil nutrient balance and cyclesPrevent, minimize and mitigate soil salinizationPrevent and minimize soil contaminationPrevent and minimize soil acidificationPreserve and enhance soil biodiversityMinimize soil sealingPrevent and mitigate soil compactionImprove soil water management

#SSM is associated with the following characteristics: Minimal rates of soil erosion by water and wind; The soil structure is not degraded (e.g. soil compaction) and provides a stable physical context for movement of air, water, and heat, as well as root growth; Sufficient surface cover (e.g. from growing plants, plant residues, etc.) is present to protect the soil; The store of soil organic matter is stable or increasing and ideally close to the optimal level for the local environment; Availability and flows of nutrients are appropriate to maintain or improve soil fertility and productivity, and to reduce their losses to the environment; Soil salinization, sodification and alkalinization are minimal; Water (e.g. from precipitation and supplementary water sources such as irrigation) is efficiently infiltrated and stored to meet the requirements of plants and ensure the drainage of any excess; Contaminants are below toxic levels, i.e. those which would cause harm to plants, animals, humans and the environment; Soil biodiversity provides a full range of biological functions; The soil management systems for producing food, feed, fuel, timber, and fibre rely on optimized and safe use of inputs; and Soil sealing is minimized through responsible land use planning.

#Enhance soil organic matter contentIncrease biomass production by increasing water availability for plants, use cover crops, balance fertilizer applications and effective use of organic amendments, improve vegetative stands, promote agroforestry and alley cropping, and promote reforestation and afforestation;Protect organic carbon-rich soils in peatlands, forests, pasturelands, etc;Increase organic matter content through practices such as: managing crop residues, utilizing forage by grazing rather than harvesting, practicing integrated pest management, applying animal manure or other carbon-rich wastes, using compost, and applying mulches or providing the soil with a permanent cover;Fire should preferably be avoided. Where fire is integral to land management, the timing and intensity of burning should aim to limit soil organic carbon losses;Make optimum use of all sources of organic inputs, such as animal manure and properly processed human wastes;Management practices such as cover crops, improved fallow plant species, reduced- or no-tillage practices, or live fences should be adopted to ensure the soil has a sufficient organic cover;Decrease decomposition rates of soil organic matter by practicing minimum or no-tillage; andPlanting legumes or improving the crop mix.

#Conclusions and way forwardReverse the negative trend of continuing SOC depletionFully implement the VGSSM at all levelsDevelop detailed manuals and technical materials for supporting the VGSSM implementation processEstablish appropriate training and capacity building programs where neededCollect data and information for monitoring SOC in a consistent manner:Towards a new Global Soil Organic Carbon Map and soil organic carbon monitoring, reporting and verification system


Thank you for your interest!



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