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Need for Spatially Explicit, Robust Assessments of Soil Organic Carbon


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43 % of Earth’s terrestrial vegetated surface is degraded with limited capacity to supply benefits to humans.
Degraded landscapes often result in lower Soil Organic Carbon and overall poor soil health.
Understanding drivers of Land Degradation and processes of Soil Organic Carbon loss are key for informing effective interventions .

Published in: Environment
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Need for Spatially Explicit, Robust Assessments of Soil Organic Carbon

  1. 1. Need for Spatially Explicit, Robust Assessments of Soil Organic Carbon Leigh Ann Winowiecki and Tor-G. Vågen, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
  2. 2. Need for land restoration in sub-Saharan Africa • 43 % of Earth’s terrestrial vegetated surface is degraded with limited capacity to supply benefits to humans • Degraded landscapes often result in lower SOC and overall poor soil health • Understanding drivers of LD and processes of SOC loss are key for informing effective interventions Source: ICRAF GeoScience Lab
  3. 3. Indicators for the assessment & monitoring of ecosystem health: 1. Science based 2. Readily measurable (quantifiable) 3. Rapid 4. Based on field assessments across multiple scales (plot, field, landscape, region) 5. Representative of the complex processes of for example, land degradation, in landscapes
  4. 4. Understanding Dynamics
  5. 5. Ecosystem Health Surveillance System
  6. 6. Systematic Assessments of Land and Soil Health • The Land Degradation Surveillance Framework (LDSF) • Systematic field-based assessments of multiple variables at the same geo- referenced location • Vegetation cover, land use, management, soil properties, biodiversity, etc. • Mapping of SOC at multiple spatial scales • Allows for: • Rapid assessments across diverse landscapes • Assessment of multiple drivers of land degradation • Targeted prioritization of interventions • Cross site comparisons • Production of high quality maps of key indicators
  7. 7. Assessing biophysical constraints to SOC storage • There are inherent soil properties that limit the extent to which the soil can store carbon. • These constraints are important to understand in order to manage for agricultural productivity and to target interventions to increase SOC in a spatially explicit way. Winowiecki, L., Vågen, T-G. and Huising, J. 2016. Effects of land cover on ecosystem services in Tanzania: A spatial assessment of soil organic carbon. Geoderma. (
  8. 8. Understanding Vegetation Patterns using Stable Carbon Isotopes • Density plots of δ13C values for the top- and subsoil samples for each of the five Land Cover Classifications. The black dotted vertical lines are average δ13C for C3 vegetation, −14‰ and for C4 vegetation, −26‰. • Note the high variation in cropland, which may reflect time since conversion and types of crops • This shift occurs between 5-19 years Winowiecki, L. A., Vågen, T.-G., Boeckx, P., & Dungait, J. A. J. (2017). Landscape-scale assessments of stable carbon isotopes in soil under diverse vegetation classes in East Africa: application of near-infrared spectroscopy. Plant and Soil.
  9. 9. SOC and Erosion Data from LDSF sites show that increased erosion is often driving the loss of SOC in landscapes. Photo credit: Joakim Vågen
  10. 10. National Soil Organic Carbon Assessments Vågen et al. InReview. SOIL
  11. 11. Potential increases in SOC stocks to achieve targets set in the 4/1000 initiative Example for Tanzania
  12. 12. § Maps of soil organic carbon (SOC, top), soil pH (middle), and sand content (bottom) at 5 m resolution (RMSEP values were 1.3,0.2, 5). White areas represent Agincourt Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance System (AHDSS) villages. - Comparison with geology, climate and vegetation Vågen et al., 2018 ticles/0/0/jeq2017.07.0300 Mapping at fine-scale resolution across variables- South Africa
  13. 13. • SOC as an indicator is now becoming mainstream in tools for decision making – Decision making – Needs to be understood in the context of management and land degradation levels • Current SHARED Dashboards – Turkana County, Kenya – Laikipia County, Kenya – Ziway woreda, Ethiopia – Mbarali, Tanzania – Solwezi, Zambia (
  14. 14. Need for consistent landscape scale assessment of ecosystem health and SOC dynamics • Opportunities for this group and beyond – Monitoring over time at the Climate Smart Villages (CCAFS), Sentinel Landscapes (FTA), WLE • Long-term experiments to answer key questions on storage • Meta-analysis of our collective work • Linking with the land restoration agenda • Other ideas
  15. 15. Invest in climate-smart soil and land health Better soil health can increase #agricultural productivity. Restoration activities build on- farm #resilience & contribute to #climate adaptation and mitigation. Here's how: Brief 8 of 9: 568/89091 @cgiarclimate @CGIAR @IITA_CGIAR @ICRAF @IFADnews #COP23 #AgAdvantage
  16. 16. Soil Restoration Efforts SOIL RESTORATION FOR ACHIEVING THE 2063 AND 2030 AGENDAS IN AFRICA: LINKING GLOBAL AMBITIONS TO LOCAL NEEDS • 2030-agendas-africa-linking-global-ambitions-local-needs • • Landscape portal Land Restoration Project Website: security-and-poverty-reduction-east-africa-and-sahel-taking
  17. 17. Any Questions?
  18. 18. Thank you! Leigh Ann Winowiecki - Tor-Gunnar Vågen -