Accounting and monitoring soil quality and soil carbon stocks

South-Estonia, Kambja parish, Paali village. Photo by: Alar Astover, Estonian University of Life Sciences

A report from EJP SOIL presents a picture of the inventory of models for accounting and monitoring soil quality and soil carbon stocks used in 21 different countries in Europe. The study had special emphasis on models for reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the UNFCCC.

The report synthesizes the information collected regarding the use of these models both at national and farm scale, as well as information of other models for soil quality monitoring, by different actors (policy making, farmers, and extension services).

The study identified a big variability in the models used at national level and GHG reporting, where the Yasso07 model is currently the most widely used, and with several countries planning its implementation in the future.

The number of models used at the farm scale to estimate SOC change presented an even bigger variability than those reported at the national scale, including some of the models included in the national scale, but also incorporating smaller spatial models intended for use at the farm scale, at the field scale or even at smaller scales. Most of the models are intended for mineral soils, both arable or grasslands, and only a few are reported for organic soils and/or other land use.

A big heterogeneity was also present in the reported soil quality models (besides those used for accounting for SOC change). Two models included in the national and farm scale are also included here (RothC and Yasso07). The most reported soil quality models focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions estimation and leaching, and are mainly related to the nitrogen cycle, but also to other nutrients, and soil physical properties.

The results show that synergies derived from European collaborations are not fully used, but offer the possibility to enhance the quality of model applications for national GHG reporting and at smaller scales for the support of farm management.

The majority of European countries are planning to improve SOC stock change accounting in national GHG inventory and joint European research programmes could support to achieve more harmonized use of models for that purpose.