Dynamics and climate change mitigation potential of soil organic carbon sequestration
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Sommer R, Bossio D. 2014. Dynamics and climate change mitigation potential of soil organic carbon sequestration. Journal of Environmental Management 144(1): 83-87.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/41896
When assessing soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration and its climate change (CC) mitigation potential at global scale, the dynamic nature of soil carbon storage and interventions to foster it should be taken into account. Firstly, adoption of SOC-sequestration measures will take time, and reasonably such schemes could only be implemented gradually at large-scale. Secondly, if soils are managed as carbon sinks, then SOC will increase only over a limited time, up to the point when a new SOC equilibrium is reached. This paper combines these two processes and predicts potential SOC sequestration dynamics in agricultural land at global scale and the corresponding CC mitigation potential. Assuming that global governments would agree on a worldwide effort to gradually change land use practices towards turning agricultural soils into carbon sinks starting 2014, the projected 87-year (2014–2100) global SOC sequestration potential of agricultural land ranged between 31 and 64 Gt. This is equal to 1.9–3.9% of the SRES-A2 projected 87-year anthropogenic emissions. SOC sequestration would peak 2032–33, at that time reaching 4.3–8.9% of the projected annual SRES-A2 emission. About 30 years later the sequestration rate would have reduced by half. Thus, SOC sequestration is not a C wedge that could contribute increasingly to mitigating CC. Rather, the mitigation potential is limited, contributing very little to solving the climate problem of the coming decades. However, we deliberately did not elaborate on the importance of maintaining or increasing SOC for sustaining soil health, agro-ecosystem functioning and productivity; an issue of global significance that deserves proper consideration irrespectively of any potential additional sequestration of SOC.