Start:1 February 2021
Duration:36 months
Aim:To identify the mechanisms underpinning trade-offs and synergies of soil carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient losses in agricultural soils across Europe, and propose climate-zone specific indicators and measures to mitigate trade-offs.

Project coordinator: Marta Goberna (

Deputy project coordinator: Sara Sánchez-Moreno (

Project communication representative: Cristina Aponte (

Soil C sequestration in agroecosystems can promote soil quality and biodiversity, but come at a cost of increased nutrient losses and greenhouse gas emissions. Aiming to increase the predictability of such synergies and trade-offs, we will study their underlying mechanisms by reviewing literature that quantifies them under different agricultural systems and management practices.

We will identify soil abiotic and biotic predictors of trade-off magnitudes, and test them in long-term experiments across a NE-SW pedoclimatic gradient in Europe. Modelling scenarios will be posed to scale-up trade-off analysis to the provincial level.

Outputs of reviews, experiments and models will serve to propose a ranked list of climate-zone specific indicators and measures to assess and mitigate trade-offs.  

Project leader and partners


Project Leader

National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA)
Responsible persons from organization: Marta Goberna



Project Partners

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
Responsible person from organization: Sara Hallin

National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA)
Responsible person from organization: Laurent Philippot

Responsible persons from organization: Gerard Velthof and Mart Ros

Aarhus University (AU)
Responsible persons from organization: Søren O. Petersen and Lars J. Munkholm

Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry (LRCAF)
Responsible person from organization: Dalia Feiziene

Agroscope (AGS)
Responsible person from organization: Marcel van der Heijden

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) 
Responsible person from organization: Juan Luis Ramos

Call text: CM8

Evaluating soil management options for specific objectives: Trade-offs between soil organic carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions and/or N and P losses 


Storing more C in soils may lead to adverse effects on the climate and on the environment, by increasing other GHG emissions (N2O, CH4) and by affecting water quality (nitrate leaching). Soil management strategies for C sequestration focus on increased input of organic matter (crop residues, cover crops, green manure, biochar etc.) or decreased turnover of soil organic matter via either increased stabilization of SOC in mineral soils (manipulation of soil microbiome and soil biology to increase formation of stabilized SOC, quality of organic matter inputs, spatio-temporal distribution of inputs) or by reducing the conditions for SOC turnover (e.g. increased groundwater table in previously cultivated and drained peatlands and organic soils). Many of these strategies have significant implications for emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, i.e. rewetting of peatlands may greatly enhance methane emissions and adding N-rich crop residues may enhance nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching.


The project will analyse the potential trade-offs for major pedo-climatic zones and farming systems in Europe. The project will gather knowledge from past and current EU activities on quantifying the trade-offs and synergies, initiate and perform targeted measurements and modelling activities to fill in significant knowledge gaps, and synthesize knowledge into proposed robust indicators to predict trade-offs and synergies, as well as measures to mitigate trade-offs.

Output/Expected impact

Robust indicators to predict trade-offs and synergies, as well as measures to mitigate trade-offs.

Project type

Two medium size projects (2x150 PM), considering the specificities of organic versus mineral soils or contrasted climate conditions in Europe. 

Available funding: 2*1.73 M€