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Assembling UK-wide data on soil carbon (and greenhouse gas fluxes) in the context of land management. - SP0567

Description
Policy-makers across Defra and other government departments have a key requirement for reliable data on soil carbon on which evidence-based policy decisions can be made. Recent evidence suggests that carbon is being lost from soils in England and Wales, but the cause of this loss is unclear. Therefore, it is likely that the impacts of any specific mitigation measures cannot currently be quantified.

It is the belief of both policymakers and UK soil scientists that sufficient information already exists to enable the impact of existing government policies on SOC losses to be examined. However, it also widely recognised that in the UK this information is currently highly fragmented and poorly integrated.

An Expert Group, with membership drawn from a broad representative base of the UK soil community, was convened, through the auspices of previous Defra project (SP0562), to identify a strategy by which this issue could be addressed. Specifically the group were charged with assessing existing data on UK soil carbon stocks, fluxes and land use influences and appraising the potential limitations of these data. The outputs from the Expert Group meeting were a clear, pragmatic way forward and the identification of several work packages to deliver the identified approach. These outputs have formed the basis for this project proposal.

The overall aim of this project is to determine the existence, availability and provenance of existing data on UK (including Northern Ireland) soil carbon stocks, fluxes and land use influences. Further aims are i) to deliver a methodology by which these data may be integrated and used to provide evidence on the behaviour and fate of soil organic carbon in the UK and ii) to reduce the uncertainties associated with predictions of soil organic carbon behaviour and fate. Specifically, this will be achieved by:
• Integrating and re-interpreting UK-wide data to produce a simple decision tool through which different soil C fluxes can be quantified. As far as practical use will be made of outputs and data from on-going projects, such as Land use, Land Use Change and Forestry (GA01088).
• Using this decision tool iteratively to identify gaps in existing data and prioritise areas for new research which can be co-supported by other soil carbon flux calculators (cf. http://calm.circlesquared.com/).
• Use of this decision tool to provide an understanding of the effects of land/use management on processes driving the spatial and temporal properties of carbon in soils.
• Using the decision tool to define the ‘rules/inputs’ in running soil C flux models to deliver UK-wide estimates of soil C flux for several established land use and management scenarios, within specified levels of confidence. The outputs from this extrapolation step should be readily interpretable and provide robust evidence to policymakers through which an understanding of the impact of policies on SOC losses can be gained.
Objective
This project builds on the outputs and findings of a previous Defra Project SP0562. The overall aim of this project is to determine the availability and provenance of existing data on UK soil carbon stocks, fluxes and land use influences. Further aims are i) to deliver a methodology by which these data may be integrated and used to provide evidence on the behaviour and fate of soil organic carbon in the UK and ii) to reduce the uncertainties associated with predictions of soil organic carbon behaviour and fate. Specifically, this will be achieved by:

1.Integrating and re-interpreting UK-wide (including Northern Ireland) data to produce a simple decision tool through which different soil C fluxes can be quantified. (Tier 1, Work Package 1).
2.Using this decision tool iteratively to identify gaps in existing data and prioritise areas for new research which can be co-supported by other soil carbon flux calculators (cf. http://calm.circlesquared.com/). (Tier 1, Work packages 1 and 2).
3.Using this decision tool to provide an understanding of the effects of land/use management on processes driving the spatial and temporal properties of carbon in soils. (Tier 1, Work Packages 3, 4, and 5).
4.Using the decision tool to define the ‘rules/inputs’ in running soil C flux models to deliver UK-wide estimates of soil C flux for several established land use and management scenarios, within specified levels of confidence. The outputs from this extrapolation step should be readily interpretable and provide robust evidence to policymakers through which an understanding of the impact of policies on SOC losses can be gained. (Tier 2).

Project Documents
• Final Report : Final report   (1107k)
• Executive Summary : Executive Summary   (64k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2008

To: 2009

Cost: £134,430
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Watts and Crane Associates
Keywords
Environmental Protection              
Land              
Soils