Mitigating climate change

Adapted land management practices can help to reduce net atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (credit: GCAFS)

Mitigating climate change

Soil and water conservation practices not only help to increase biodiversity and improve food security, they can also contribute to climate change mitigation. When the amount of trees, shrubs and organic matter inputs increase, more carbon can be stored in vegetation and soil organic material. And that means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Farmers can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases by practices such as minimal ploughing, which cause less breakdown of soil organic matter. 

Call for standardized tools

Increasingly new land management projects are required to report the impact they have on greenhouse gas emissions. At the moment, however, it is difficult to compare the net C benefits of these projects. Equally, it has been difficult for sustainable land management activities to gain the financial rewards they deserve from emerging carbon-offset markets (e.g. post-Kyoto arrangements). Such requirements and arrangements call for standardized tools to assess the benefits of ´climate smart´ agriculture and land use.

Soil data related to carbon sequestration

ISRIC contributes to land management programs aimed at mitigating climate change, and it participates in international projects that develop tools to assess the benefits of such activities. Soil data are needed to run the web-based tools. How much carbon a specific soil will store depends on many factors including soil drainage, soil nutrient status, soil texture and clay type. We generate and analyse soil data related to carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas release.

Choose a project:

This SCOPE Rapid Assessment Project on Benefits of Soil Carbon (BSC) is a major international effort to transfer complex science evidence into new policy approaches and into new land management practices. Conserving and improving soil carbon through land management offers enormous potential to simultaneously address the major global challenges of rapid climate change, degradation of soil and water quality and urgent and growing demand for food

The web-based tools developed in the Carbon Benefits Project (GEF-CBP) will enable land users and other professionals to assess the net effects of land use change on greenhouse gases emissions and carbon stock changes. Users can enter information about the proposed management of the land (such as tillage and use of fertilizer and irrigation) and about the climate and soil type. The tools have been developed by an international consortium which is being led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) involving ColoradoState University, partners in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Kenya, China, Niger, Nigeria and the Netherlands (ISRIC).

When farmers change forests into agriculture, soil organic carbon levels normally decrease unless ‘best management’ practices are introduced. The GEF-SOC consortium, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has developed toolsthat can quantify the potential impact of land use management and climate scenarios on sequestration of organic carbon in areas with different soils and climates. ISRIC helped to prepare soil and terrain databases for the project regions (Kenya, Jordan, Amazon Brazil, and the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India) and provided expertise on estimating national soil carbon stocks using GIS mapping approaches.

ISRIC has reviewed the most promising management practices to increase carbon sequestration in the soil at the request of the Dutch National Research Programme on Global Air Pollution and Climate Change (NRP). These practices will require evaluation and adaptation with reference to soil type and land use system, and this preferably by agro-ecological region.