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Modeling Soil Organic Carbon Dynamics, Carbon Sequestration, and the Climate Benefit of Sequestration
  • Carlos Sierra,
  • Susan E Crow
Carlos Sierra
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

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Susan E Crow
University of Hawaii at Manoa
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Mathematical models are essential for integrating different processes that control rates of soil C dynamics and for assessing C sequestration and related climate benefits. Many models have been proposed in the literature to predict C stocks and fluxes, with no overall consensus on the best model that can provide relevant insights at a large range of scales and for multiple questions. We reviewed general groups of models with their expected ranges of application. We also reviewed recent advances in using models of any level of detail to compute C sequestration, and the climate benefit of C sequestration. Using agricultural soils from Sweden and Hawai‘i as examples, we show that new C inputs to the soil do not remain for long timescales, and only small proportions are stabilized. Although soils are a promising reservoir to store C and mediate emissions, long timescales are required to store amounts of C of relevance to mitigate climate change. The magnitude of climate benefit to mitigate warming through soil C sequestration is less than that of avoiding direct emissions, however, remains an important component of climate change mitigation and adaptation portfolios. Beyond the direct warming mitigation benefits, improved soil health through soil organic matter aggradation brings many co-benefits to the environment and local comunities. Improved production practices and locally sourced food and energy feedstocks are associated directly with avoided emissions elsewhere in the food and energy system.