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Soil Carbon Sequestration: Key Strategies



  May 06, 2024

Soil Carbon Sequestration



What is soil carbon sequestration?

Soil carbon sequestration is the process where plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and help store it in the soil. This happens mostly through the growth of plants, which use CO2 during photosynthesis. Sometimes, CO2 can also turn into inorganic forms like minerals in the soil, especially in dry areas.

How have human activities affected soil carbon?

Since the start of industrial times, changing natural areas to farmland has greatly lowered the amount of carbon stored in soils, releasing between 50 to 100 gigatons of carbon into the air. This decrease comes from fewer plant remains being put back into the soil, more decomposition due to plowing, and increased soil erosion.

What factors influence how much carbon the soil can store?

Several factors affect soil carbon storage, including climate, past and present land use, how the land is managed, and the variety of the landscape. These factors determine how much carbon can be stored in the soil and how quickly it might be lost.

How do higher CO2 levels and global warming impact soil carbon?

Studies have shown that with higher CO2 levels, plants can capture more carbon, potentially increasing how much carbon is stored in the soil through their growth. However, this might be balanced out by more carbon loss from plants respiring more and microbes in the soil breaking down organic material faster. Warmer temperatures might boost plant growth but could also speed up the breakdown of organic material in the soil, affecting the overall balance of carbon.

How does the landscape affect soil carbon storage?

The features of the landscape, like how wet or nutrient-rich the soil is, can change a lot depending on the slope and height of the land. These differences affect how plants grow their roots and, therefore, how they take in and lose carbon, leading to variations in how much carbon is stored across different areas.

Can we increase soil carbon through changes in land use and management?

Yes, by changing how land is used and managed, such as by reforesting or restoring grasslands, we can increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil. For example, turning a field that used to grow crops back into a forest or grassland can lead to more plant growth and less carbon loss compared to when it was farmed.

What are the challenges in measuring soil carbon changes?

Seeing changes in soil carbon takes a long time, sometimes decades, which makes it hard to directly measure these changes. Research often depends on long-term studies or models to guess the possible increases or decreases in soil carbon under different land management scenarios.



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