Review of existing information on the interrelations between soil and climate change. (ClimSoil). Final report

Schils, Rene; Kuikman, Peter; Liski, Jari; Van Oijen, Marcel; Smith, Pete; Webb, Jim; Alm, Jukka; Somogyi, Zoltan; Van den Akker, Jan; Billett, Mike; Emmett, Bridget; Evans, Chris; Lindner, Marcus; Palosuo, Taru; Bellamy, Patricia; Jandl, Robert; Hiederer, Ronald. 2008 Review of existing information on the interrelations between soil and climate change. (ClimSoil). Final report. Brussels, European Commission, 208pp.

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Carbon stock in EU soils – The soil carbon stocks in the EU27 are around 75 billion tonnes of carbon (C); of this stock around 50% is located in Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom (because of the vast area of peatlands in these countries) and approximately 20% is in peatlands, mainly in countries in the northern part of Europe. The rest is in mineral soils, again the higher amount being in northern Europe. 2. Soils sink or source for CO2 in the EU – Both uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) through photosynthesis and plant growth and loss of CO2 through decomposition of organic matter from terrestrial ecosystems are significant fluxes in Europe. Yet, the net terrestrial carbon fluxes are typically 5-10 times smaller relative to the emissions from use of fossil fuel of 4000 Mt CO2 per year. 3. Peat and organic soils - The largest emissions of CO2 from soils are resulting from land use change and especially drainage of organic soils and amount to 20-40 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year. The most effective option to manage soil carbon in order to mitigate climate change is to preserve existing stocks in soils, and especially the large stocks in peat and other soils with a high content of organic matter. 4. Land use and soil carbon – Land use and land use change significantly affects soil carbon stocks. On average, soils in Europe are most likely to be accumulating carbon on a net basis with a sink for carbon in soils under grassland and forest (from 0 - 100 billion tonnes of carbon per year) and a smaller source for carbon from soils under arable land (from 10 - 40 billion tonnes of carbon per year). Soil carbon losses occur when grasslands, managed forest lands or native ecosystems are converted to croplands and vice versa carbon stocks increase, albeit it slower, following conversion of cropland. 5. Soil management and soil carbon – Soil management has a large impact on soil carbon. Measures directed towards effective management of soil carbon are available and identified, and many of these are feasible and relatively inexpensive to implement. Management for lower nitrogen (N) emissions and lower C emissions is a useful approach to prevent trade off and swapping of emissions between the greenhouse gases CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). 6. Carbon sequestration – Even though effective in reducing or slowing the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere, soil carbon sequestration is surely no ‘golden bullet’ alone to fight climate change due to the limited magnitude of its effect and its potential reversibility; it could, nevertheless, play an important role in climate mitigation alongside other measures, especially because of its immediate availability and relative low cost for 'buying' us time. 7. Effects of climate change on soil carbon pools – Climate change is expected to have an impact on soil carbon in the longer term, but far less an impact than does land use change, land use and land management. We have not found strong and clear evidence for either overall and combined positive of negative impact of climate change (atmospheric CO2, temperature, precipitation) on soil carbon stocks. Due to the relatively large gross exchange of CO2 between atmosphere and soils and the significant stocks of carbon in soils, relatively small changes in these large and opposing fluxes of CO2, i.e. as result of land use (change), land management and climate change, may have significant impact on our climate and on soil quality. 8. Monitoring systems for changes in soil carbon – Currently, monitoring and knowledge on land use and land use change in EU27 is inadequate for accurate calculation of changes in soil carbon contents. Systematic and harmonized monitoring across EU27 and across relevant land uses would allow for adequate representation of changes in soil carbon in reporting emissions from soils and sequestration in soils to the UNFCCC. 9. EU policies and soil carbon – Environmental requirements under the Cross Compliance requirement of CAP is an instrument that may be used to maintain SOC. Neither measures under UNFCCC nor those mentioned in the proposed Soil Framework Directive are expected to adversely impact soil C. EU policy on renewable energy is not necessarily a guarantee for appropriate (soil) carbon management.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry > BG01 Measuring and modelling trace gas, aerosol and carbon
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Billett (to November 2013)
Funders/Sponsors: European Commision
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This report is discussed at: and can be freely downloaded from:
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Ecology and Environment
Earth Sciences
Data and Information
Atmospheric Sciences
Related URLs:
Date made live: 22 Jul 2009 10:29 +0 (UTC)

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