EU Science Hub

New baseline of organic carbon stock in European agricultural soils

Dec 17 2013

The JRC developed a modelling platform to estimate organic carbon stock in European agricultural soils and presented its outcome in the Global Change Biology journal.

The platform could serve as a tool to carry out scenario analyses for developing and monitoring European climate change effects and agricultural policies. Soil organic carbon is an essential indicator of good soil quality. It improves the physical properties, notably by increasing its nutrient retention and groundwater protection capacities, essential to plant growth. Soil carbon sequestration is an important means to offset CO2 emissions. Its estimation is therefore fundamental to develop soil-related policies.

Despite detailed national soil organic carbon datasets in several Member States, a consistent carbon stock estimation at European scale was missing. To fill this gap, the JRC developed a comprehensive modelling platform with comparable and harmonised European geographical and numerical datasets.

This model computed almost 164 000 combinations of soil, climate, and land use data, resulting in new soil organic carbon datasets at pan-EU level. Results were tested against inventories from the European Environment and Observation Network (EIONET) and approximately 20 000 soil samples from the 2009 LUCAS survey, the top-soil harmonised dataset of the European Union.

This platform could prove to be a very useful tool to orient future policymaking decisions related to soil.