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Soil Themes > Soil Organic Carbon Content > Pan-European Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) stock of agricultural soils

Pan-European SOC stock of agricultural soils

The future EU policy in agriculture will utilized SOC as indicator, both as a main parameter of soil quality and as a strategy to offset CO2 emission by C sequestration. However a consistent picture of agricultural SOC stock is missing as well as tools to orient the future policymaker decisions. To fill this gap, the JRC developed a comprehensive modelling platform with comparable and harmonised European geographical and numerical datasets.

We estimated a current top SOC stock of 17.63 Gt in EU agricultural soils, by an unprecedented model application running about 164,000 combination of climate, soil and land use/management.
A comprehensive model platform was established at a pan-European scale (EU + Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Norway) using the agro-ecosystem SOC model CENTURY. The model was implemented with the main management practices (e.g. irrigation, mineral and organic fertilization, tillage, etc.) derived from official statistics. The model results were tested against inventories from the European Environment and Observation Network (EIONET) and approximately 20,000 soil samples from the 2009 LUCAS survey, a monitoring project aiming at producing the first coherent, comprehensive and harmonized top-soil dataset of the EU based on harmonized sampling and analytical methods.

A detailed explanation of the methodology and the platform of simulation developed could be found in: Lugato E., Panagos P., Bampa, F., Jones A., Montanarella L. (2014). A new baseline of organic carbon stock in European agricultural soils using a modelling approach. Global change biology. 20 (1), pp. 313-326.

This work is part of the CAPRESE project (CArbon PREservation and SEquestration in agricultural soils), an administrative arrangement between the JRC and the Commission - DG AGRI undertaken to develop policies addressing climate change soil-related aspects in European agriculture.


Using soils to mitigate carbon emissions

JRC scientists finds that making alternative uses of arable land could potentially help capture significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. They investigated the potential carbon sequestration of six of the most representative agricultural management practices on arable soils, and finded that the conversion of arable land to grassland results in the highest potential soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration rates, whereas the conversion of grassland to arable land has the effect of strongly increasing the amount of carbon losses to the atmosphere.

The scientists have used a recently developed high resolution pan-European simulation platform to assess the potential impact of six management practices on SOC stock levels of arable soil under two IPCC climate change scenarios to 2100: arable to grassland conversion (and vice versa), straw incorporation, reduced tillage, straw incorporation with reduced tillage, ley cropping and cover crops. According to the results of three policy simulations carried out by the scientists, the allocation of just 12% of arable land to different combinations of agricultural management practices would produce significant mitigation effects, which would be sufficient to reach the EU's target of cutting its emissions to 20% below of the 1990 levels by 2020.

A detailed explanation of the methodology and the scenarios could be found in Lugato E., Bampa F., Panagos P., Montanarella L. and Jones A. (2014). Potential carbon sequestration of European arable soils estimated by modelling a comprehensive set of management practices. Global Change Biology (2014), 20, 3557–3567, doi: 10.1111/gcb.12551.
Data are also available for download.


Access to the data

In order to obtain access to these data : Fill in the online form; after which you will receive further instructions how to download the data. Two type of Datasets are available:

1. Pan-European SOC stock of agricultural soils
Format: Polygon cover (shape file)
Fields: a) [y2010] = Soil organic stock (t C ha-1) in the layer 0-30 cm at 2010 , b) [agr_ha] = hectares under agricultural land use
Projection: ETRS_1989_LAEA_L52_M10
Coverage: pan-European scale (EU + Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Norway)
Notes: values = 0 in the field[y2010] are units not simulated; the agricultural land use includes arable land, pasture and permanent croplands
Methodology - Metadata: Application of CENTURY model. More details can be found in the A new baseline of organic carbon stock in European agricultural soils using a modelling approach. Global change biology or contact the first author.

2. Alternative management practices (AMP) - Using soils to mitigate carbon emissions
Format: Polygon cover (shape file) and dbf files
Projection: ETRS_1989_LAEA_L52_M10
SOC_arable.shp = is the projected SOC baseline content (t C ha-1 in 0-30 cm depth) of the arable land use, where the following alternative management practices (AMP) are applied:
AR_GR_LUC = conversion from arable to grassland; AR_RES = crop residue management; AR_RT = reduced tillage; AR_RET = crop residue + reduced tillage; AR_LEY = ley in rotation; AR_CC = cover crops.
The dbf files contain the SOC changes related to the application of AMP in the arable land.
Fields: [y2020, y2050, y2080, y2100] = Soil organic stock difference (t C ha-1) between AMP and the arable land use in the projected years.
[st2020, st2050, st2080, st2100] = Uncertainty related to climatic scenarios.
Instructions: values = 0 are units not simulated.
In order to map AMP effects, the dbf files must be joined with the SOC_arable.shp by ID
Methodology - Metadata: Potential carbon sequestration of European arable soils estimated by modelling a comprehensive set of management practices, Global change biology or contact the first author

Important Note: Further improved versions will be released in the next months.


SOC

Contact

Emanuele Lugato
Email: Emanuele.lugato at jrc.ec.europa.eu, tel. +39 0332 789672, fax +39 0332 789034


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European Commission - Joint Research Centre
Institute for Environment and Sustainability
Contacts:
Marc Van Liedekerke(tel. +39-0332-785179)
Panos Panagos (tel. +39-0332-785574)