Soil Carbon

Soil is the largest terrestrial pool of organic carbon, containing approximately 2344 gigatons of organic carbon globally. This is second only to the ocean. Of this carbon, 54% is stored in the top three metres of soil.

Ploughing soil can lead to an 11% reduction in soil organic matter (Smith, 2004), with a soil carbon loss of up to 50% into the atmospheric climate over a period of 50-100 years (Lehmann, 2006). This means that arable soils often have the lowest soil carbon of all land classes.

Carbon Holding Potentials by Ecosystem

A landscape change

It is vital to consider this when changing the land use of an area. The highest gain in soil organic carbon derives from changing land use from crop to permanent forest, which has been estimated as increasing by 53%.

The earth’s forests contain more carbon than is present in the atmosphere (Harrison and Hester, 2010). This combination of soil and forest carbon sequestration are an invaluable resource, contributing to long-term carbon storage.


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