Modelling soil carbon under climate change

Predicting how climate change will influence future soil carbon storage in pastoral soils is an essential first step toward developing adaptive management practices.

Current projects

Project title Lead organisation/s
Grassland soil organic matter stocks: projecting changes in response to climate change and disturbance AgResearch


Soil carbon storage is strongly influenced by environmental variables. Future shifts in carbon dioxide concentrations, temperature and rainfall regimes may drive changes in soil carbon storage that occur independently of management. The ability to better predict how such changes will modify soil carbon stocks will be an essential first step in developing adaptive management practices.

NZAGRC-funded research is using a mix of empirical and modelling approaches to address this need.

Empirical studies are underway using AgResearch’s unique FACE (Free Air CO2 Enrichment) facility located at Flock House in the Manawatu. FACE comprises a number of enclosed grazed pastures where carbon dioxide concentrations, temperature and water supply can be controlled and their influence on pasture and soil attributes can be studied separately and in combination.

Data from the FACE studies will be used to inform and improve a current grassland ecosystem model (Cen-W) that will be used to map potential soil carbon changes in New Zealand driven by climate change.