Quantifying carbon for agricultural soil management: from the current status toward a global soil information system

Keith Paustain, Sarah Collier, Jeff Baldock, Rachel Burgess, Jeff Creque, Marcia DeLonge, JA Dungait, Ben Ellert, Stefan Frank, Tom Goddard, Bram Govaerts, Mike Grundy, Mark Henning, R. Cesar Izaurralde, Mikulas Madaras, Brian McConkey, Elizabeth Porzig, Charles Rice, Ross Searle, Nathaniel SeavyRastislav Skalsky, William Mulhern, Molly Jahn

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    124 Citations (Scopus)
    222 Downloads (Pure)


    The importance of building/maintaining soil carbon, for soil health and CO2 mitigation, is of increasing interest to a wide audience, including policymakers, NGOs and land managers. Integral to any approaches to promote carbon sequestering practices in managed soils are reliable, accurate and cost-effective means to quantify soil C stock changes and forecast soil C responses to different management, climate and edaphic conditions. While technology to accurately measure soil C concentrations and stocks has been in use for decades, many challenges to routine, cost-effective soil C quantification remain, including large spatial variability, low signal-to-noise and often high cost and standardization issues for direct measurement with destructive sampling. Models, empirical and process-based, may provide a cost-effective and practical means for soil C quantification to support C sequestration policies. Examples are described of how soil science and soil C quantification methods are being used to support domestic climate change policies to promote soil C sequestration on agricultural lands (cropland and grazing land) at national and provincial levels in Australia and Canada. Finally, a quantification system is outlined – consisting of well-integrated data-model frameworks, supported by expanded measurement and monitoring networks, remote sensing and crowd-sourcing of management activity data – that could comprise the core of a new global soil information system.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)567-587
    Number of pages21
    JournalCarbon Management
    Issue number6
    Early online date3 Sept 2019
    Publication statusPrint publication - 2 Nov 2019


    • Soil carbon
    • Carbon sequestration
    • Measurement methods
    • SOC models
    • Soil monitoring
    • Soil health


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