Conserving and improving soil carbon through land management offers enormous potential to simultaneously address the major global challenges of rapid climate change, degradation of soil and water quality and urgent and growing demand for food. Many of the benefits of soil carbon arising from multiple ecosystem services are not recognised or are external to the existing markets. This project is a major international effort to transfer complex science evidence into new policy approaches and into new land management practices.
This Rapid Assessment Project (RAP) on The Benefits of Soil Carbon draws together experts from a broad range of disciplines to prepare the science evidence, presented in 27 background chapters, to synthesise this complex body of information in order to establish a step change in policy approaches and land management practices worldwide.
The first milestone of this crucial global collaboration - the Benefits of Soil Carbon Workshop held 18-22 March 2013 and hosted by the European Commission, Directorate General Joint Research Centre at Ispra, Italy - brought together 40 leading experts from Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America to build on the state of the knowledge from the background chapters. The keynote address was provided by Professor Jerry Melillo, Chair of the US National Climate Change Assessment and an opening video address was given by Nobel Prize winner Professor Sir Harry Kroto. During the five-day event, participants drafted four cross-cutting chapters that identify knowledge gaps, research requirements and policy innovations to create new solutions to the challenges of recovering the world’s soil from near-death experiences!
World Soil Day 2014 saw the launch of the principle output of this RAP 'SCOPE Volume 71: Soil Carbon - science, management and policy for multiple benefits'; a volume of 31 chapters of complex scientific evidence towards new policy approaches and land management practices. With an executive summary, the background and cross-cutting chapters form the 71st SCOPE Science monograph. To maximise impact on policy and action, participants prepare three to five international policy briefs on the main conclusions and recommendations and produce an authoritative review article for a high-impact international journal.
Dissemination includes the international council of environment ministers, intergovernmental agencies and their technical advisors, technical experts in government and businesses, and the wider public via outreach programmes and press conferences.
This project includes planning for the necessary follow-on work to fully roadmap policy development and implement solutions for the global delivery of the multiple benefits of soil carbon and arises through the collective initiative and broad interdisciplinary consensus of the members of the Scientific Advisory Committee.
The collaboration is in response to the United Nations Environment Programme Foresight Assessment which identified Benefits of Soil Carbon as one of the top two emerging areas in 2012 to focus international attention and effort for global opportunity, subsequently developed as an emerging environmental issue chapter in the UNEP Year Book 2012. Further developments are reported in Chapter 9 of the UNEP Year Book 2014, as an update on international action for the improvement of soil management.
The Benefits of Soil Carbon project is co-chaired by Prof. Steven Banwart, The University of Sheffield, UK, and Prof. Elke Noellemeyer, Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, Argentina.