Soil is able to store four times the amount of carbon compared with terrestrial biomass (trees, plants, grasses etc) . It is a vast resource that has been heavily depleted over the past two centuries, as land use changes and modern agricultural practices have led to reductions in soil carbon levels.
Furthermore, recent research has shown that in some cases tree planting can lead to no net carbon benefit, as the soil releases a similar amount of carbon into the atmosphere as the tree removes .
Cost effective and easy-to-use methods of measuring soil carbon are required, so that restoring soil carbon levels can complement tree planting and habitat restoration as a means of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
Quantifying the amount of soil carbon, however, is no mean feat. Current commercial soil testing is geared heavily towards farming. For example, agricultural soil testing is primarily concerned with the top 15cm of soil (depth of a plough) or 8cm of soil (pasture grass depth), whereas soil carbon can accumulate up to 50cm down and beyond in non-agricultural soils.
Carbon Rewild has launched a project to find a solution to measure soil carbon stocks. This will enable landowners and managers to accurately assess their carbon stocks, facilitating projects geared towards ecosystem restoration and carbon offsetting.
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- Bispo A, Andersen L, Angers DA, Bernoux M, Brossard M, Cécillon L, Comans RNJ, Harmsen J, Jonassen K, Lamé F, Lhuillery C, Maly S, Martin E, Mcelnea AE, Sakai H, Watabe Y and Eglin TK (2017) Accounting for Carbon Stocks in Soils and Measuring GHGs Emission Fluxes from Soils: Do We Have the Necessary Standards? Front. Environ. Sci. 5:41. https://doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2017.00041
- Friggens NL, Hester AJ, Mitchell RJ, Parker TC, Subke J-A, Wookey PA. Tree planting in organic soils does not result in net carbon sequestration on decadal timescales. Glob Change Biol. 2020;26:5178-5188. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15229