Title: Mitigation potential of soil carbon management overestimated by neglecting N2O emissions
Citation: NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE vol. 8 p. 219–223
Publication Year: 2018
JRC N°: JRC106969
ISSN: 1758-678X (online)
URI: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0087-z#Sec11
DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0087-z
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: International initiatives such as the ‘4 pour 1000’ are promoting enhanced carbon (C) sequestration in agricultural soils as a way to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions1. However, changes in soil organic C turnover feedback into the nitrogen (N) cycle2, meaning that variation in soil nitrous oxides (N2O) emissions may offset or enhance C sequestration actions3. Here we use a biogeochemistry model on approximately 8,000 soil sampling locations in the EU4 to quantify the net CO2 equivalent (CO2eq) fluxes associated with representative C mitigating agricultural practices. Practices based on integrated crop residue retention and lower soil disturbance are found to not increase N2O emissions as long as C accumulation continues (until around 2040), thereafter leading to a moderate C sequestration offset mostly below 47% by 2100. The introduction of N fixing cover crops allowed higher C accumulation over the initial 20 years, but this gain was progressively offset by higher N2O emissions over time. By 2060, around half of the sites became a net source of greenhouse gases. We conclude that a significant CO2 mitigation can be achieved in the initial 20-30 years of any C management scheme but, afterward, N inputs should be controlled through appropriate management.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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