A research project led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology will transform our understanding of the potential of soil carbon storage to mitigate climate change.
The project, entitled “LOCKED UP”, is to receive a grant of £1.8 million from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to help scientists understand the processes of soil carbon formation, stabilisation and loss.
Led by Dr Jeanette Whitaker of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and also involving Lancaster University and University of Leeds, the study will help to quantify the amount by which we can increase soil carbon storage to mitigate climate change.
LOCKED UP represents a new collaboration between researchers with expertise in soil ecology and microbiology, biogeochemistry, mineralogy and environmental modelling. It includes advisory support from Max Planck Institut, Germany, and Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), France.
Small increases in soil carbon over very large areas could significantly reduce net carbon dioxide emissions from agriculture - Dr Jeanette Whitaker
Welcoming the grant, Dr Whitaker said: “Maintaining and increasing soil carbon stocks globally is critical to ensuring food security and mitigating climate change. Small increases in soil carbon over very large areas could significantly reduce net carbon dioxide emissions from agriculture."
The world’s soils hold around twice the amount of carbon that is found in the atmosphere and in vegetation, yet the loss of carbon from this important reservoir is an escalating global threat caused by unsustainable land management practices. If “unlocked”, this carbon can enter the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.
Soil carbon loss also makes soils less fertile and so impacts global food security.
In 2015 at the Paris climate summit, France launched the ‘4 per 1000’ initiative to promote actions to globally increase soil carbon stocks. To achieve this goal we need research to ensure the long term stability of soil carbon.