Carbon sequestration in agricultural soils

Carbon sequestration in agricultural soils

Knowledge on the impact of different land management practices on soil carbon sequestration rates across the world

This report aims to improve the knowledge base for scaling-up investments in land management technologies that sequester soil carbon for increased productivity under changing climate conditions. The report presents the following key messages.

  • Sustainable land management technologies can benefit farmers, because they can increase yields and reduce production costs.
  • Soil carbon sequestration can be maximised by managing trade-offs across space, time and sectors.
  • Adoption of sustainable land management practices is affected by socio-economic and institutional barriers.
  • Without public support for farmers, poor agricultural land management increases land degradation, farmers’ vulnerability to climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The publication reports that sustainable land management delivers carbon benefits in the following ways:
  • carbon conservation, in which the large volumes of carbon stored in natural habitats remain stored as carbon stocks
  • carbon sequestration, in which the growth of agricultural and natural biomass removes carbon from the atmosphere and stores it in soil and biomass
  • sustainable land management (SLM), in which carbon stocks become carbon sources as agricultural production expands into natural ecosystems.
On factors affecting soil carbon sequestration, the paper shows that:
  • climate significantly influences large-scale patterns of soil carbon sequestration; sites in warmer and middle temperature regions accumulate soil carbon more rapidly than those in colder regions, while semi-humid areas have higher sequestration rates than semi-arid areas
  • soil type is significant to soil carbon sequestration, because soils with higher clay content sequester carbon at higher rates
  • timing requires careful consideration when introducing improved land management practices that increase carbon sequestration.
The paper recommends the following policy options for soil carbon sequestration.
  • Strengthen the capacity of governments to implement climate smart agriculture.
  • Integrate agriculture into the ongoing negotiations for an international climate change regime.
  • Boost financial support for early action through a combination of public, private and development finance to scale-up improved land management practices to support food security.
  • Raise the level of national investment in agriculture through selective targeting and prioritisation of technologies that generate long-term returns.
  • Introduce policies and incentives that provide an enabling environment for private sector investment.
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