Our projects

A national soil carbon monitoring system for agricultural land

A study to improve New Zealand’s ability to report greenhouse gas emissions and removals under international climate change agreements and satisfy a growing desire by primary industry organisations and individual farmers to know how New Zealand’s soil carbon stocks might be changing.

nscms2
More information
www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/newsletters/soil/issue-28/a-national-soil-carbon-monitoring-system-for-agricultural-land-in-new-zealand
Funder
New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC); Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
Duration
0 years 8 months
Start date: 01 Oct 2019
End date: 30 Jun 2020

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research has received  funding from The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre  (NZAGRC) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to commence the first  phase of a new nationwide baseline soil carbon measurement study. This study will  improve New Zealand’s ability to report greenhouse gas emissions and removals  under international climate change agreements and satisfy a growing desire by  primary industry organisations and individual farmers to know how New Zealand’s  soil carbon stocks might be changing.

Under the United Nations Framework  Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, New Zealand is obliged to  report annually its national man made (anthropogenic) greenhouse gas emissions  and removals. Currently, national-scale  changes in soil carbon are estimated using a statistical model that predicts changes  in soil carbon for changes between broad land-use classes (e.g. pasture to cropping).  This is a well-established approach, but assumes that  soil carbon is at steady state if the land-use class doesn’t change (even if  management practices within the land use change), and that changes in a land-use  class result in changes in soil carbon over a period of twenty years to a new  steady state.

There is  currently limited data from direct measurements of soil carbon change through  time in New Zealand with which to test these assumptions. The evidence  available indicates that soil carbon is largely constant in flat and rolling  pastoral land, except for organic/peaty soils where soil carbon is declining.  There is some evidence that hill country pastoral soils gained carbon between  about 1980 and 2010, but it is not clear how widespread these  gains were, and whether they have continued since 2010. The information available is also largely based on  historical soil survey sampling sites which were not explicitly selected to be  representative of all agricultural land in New Zealand.

Contact details

Paul Mudge
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Hamilton, New Zealand

P +64 7 859 3794
Email Paul