Soil Carbon

Increasing the quantity of carbon stored in agricultural soils has the potential to offset emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, while soil carbon losses would further add to those emissions.

However, realising this mitigation potential is technically challenging when soil carbon stocks are already high (as they are in New Zealand), potential changes in soil carbon are small and spatial variability is high.

The current NZAGRC programme has three distinct components:

(1) testing specific management practices that may increase the long term soil carbon store in field situations;

(2) developing and using models to predict how a range of management practices may influence long and short tem soil carbon storage; and

(3) identifying those factors that influence the stability of current or newly added soil carbon.

We have also supported international work to map on farm soil carbon and will participate in the international research programme CIRCASA.

Principal Investigators

Dr David Whitehead, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research (2010-present)
Professor Frank Kelliher, AgResearch (2010-2017)

Research Stories

Professor Louis Schipper

Louis Schipper is a Professor at the University of Waikato who investigates soil biogeochemical processes at landscape scales and how they might be manipulated to achieve improved environmental performance while maintaining production. For the last decade, Louis has led teams determining changes in carbon stocks of pasture soils at paddock to national scales. This research demonstrated that while carbon in the majority of pastures on flat land was at steady state, some of our important soils had lost substantial carbon while hill-country soils have gained large amounts. These data have been central to developing a national picture of New Zealand’s carbon budget. They have also used micro-meteorological approaches to evaluate high-resolution fluxes of carbon at farm scales to identify practices that increase carbon stocks, generating in-depth understanding of climatic effects (e.g., drought, rainfall) and management impacts (pasture renewal, cultivation, new pasture species). Louis is an elected fellow of the New Zealand and American soil science societies with multiple awards from the NZ Society. He has published >130 papers (Scopus H-index of 36), supervised ~40 PhD/MSc students, and developed substantial soil and environmental resources for schools.


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