Current Soil Carbon Research

Objective 3.1
Limits of soil carbon storage in New Zealand soils

Leader: Dr Mike Beare (Plant & Food Research)
NZAGRC funding: April 2010 - June 2012

The NZAGRC's research programme on soil carbon is designed to move beyond quantifying the stock of carbon in New Zealand's agricultural soils to understanding the processes of soil C storage and management of those processes to conserve and, where possible, increase soil C stocks. The first steps in the research programme involve defining the upper limits of C storage in New Zealand soils and determining how close our soils are to that upper limit. This Objective seeks to address one of these first key steps, i.e. to define the upper limits of carbon storage in New Zealand agricultural soils.

Objective 3.2

Quantifying the carbon currently stored in New Zealand soils

Leader: Dr Allan Hewitt (Landcare Research)
NZAGRC funding: April 2010 - June 2012

This work complements research in Objective 3.1 and aims to determine the current status of carbon stocks in New Zealand agricultural soils. Objectives 3.1 and 3.2 will work in tandem to contribute to the development of a robust methodology for estimating the potential of NZ agricultural soils to increase soil carbon storage.

Objective 3.3
Process-based modelling of drivers of soil carbon change

Leader: Professor Tony Parsons (Massey University)
NZAGRC funding: April 2010 - June 2014

Our capacity to manipulate soil C (stocks and sequestration rates) depends on how well we understand the fundamental drivers of C supply, transformations and stability, in the whole agricultural system. The extremely long time frame for measurable changes in soil C stocks, its spatial and temporal variability, and the difficulty involved in measuring changes in the rate of sequestration, means that process-based dynamic models are an inescapable tool for generating insights into the drivers of soil C change. Such models are also essential to foresee what impacts strategies for changing soil C would have on emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, and on agricultural productivity.

Objective 3.4
Manipulation of carbon inputs, incorporation and retention to protect and enhance soil carbon

Leader: Dr David Whitehead (Landcare Research)
NZAGRC funding: April 2010 - June 2014

The aim of this Objective is to use measurements and models to quantify changes in soil carbon storage following experimental manipulation that could be applied as farm management practices. The research will move beyond quantification of the amounts of carbon in soils, to understanding the processes driving soil carbon storage in relation to farm management.

Objective 3.5
Improved soil carbon measurements

Leader: Professor Frank Kelliher (AgResearch)
NZAGRC funding: April 2010 - June 2014

This objective's goal is improved methods to verify temporal changes in soil carbon (C) storage and accounting rules suitable for a national inventory of agricultural soils. Soils data in New Zealand are fragmented, geographic coverage limited and most samples have come from a depth < 0.1 m. It will be difficult to verify slow, relatively small and variable changes of C storage rate in pastoral agricultural soils. Improved methods will include the development of data analyses.


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