The soil organic carbon: Clay ratio in North Devon, UK: Implications for marketing soil carbon as an asset class

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Pulley, S., Taylor, H., Prout, J., Haefele, S. M. and Collins, A. L. 2023. The soil organic carbon: Clay ratio in North Devon, UK: Implications for marketing soil carbon as an asset class. Soil Use and Management. 39 (3), pp. 1068-1081. https://doi.org/10.1111/sum.12920

AuthorsPulley, S., Taylor, H., Prout, J., Haefele, S. M. and Collins, A. L.
Abstract

Building up stocks of agricultural soil organic carbon (SOC) can improve soil conditions as well as contribute to climate change mitigation. As a metric, the ratio of SOC to clay offers a better predictor of soil condition than SOC alone, potentially providing a benchmark for ecosystem service payments. We determined SOC:clay ratios for 50 fields in the North Devon UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve using 30 cm soil cores (divided into 0-10 cm and 10-30 cm depth samples), with soil bulk density, soil moisture and land-use history recorded for each field. All the arable soils exceeded the minimum desirable SOC:clay ratio threshold, and the ley grassland soils generally exceeded it but were inconsistent at 10-30 cm. Land use was the primary factor driving SOC:clay ratios at 0-10 cm, with permanent pasture fields having the highest ratios followed by ley grass and then arable fields. Approximately half of the fields sampled had potential for building up SOC stock at 10-30 cm. However, at this depth, the effect of land use is significantly reduced. Within-field variability in SOC and clay was low (coefficient of variation was similar to 10%) at both 0-10 cm and 10-30 cm, suggesting that SOC:clay ratios precisely characterized the fields. Due to the high SOC:clay ratios found, we conclude that there is limited opportunity to market additional carbon sequestration as an asset class in the North Devon Biosphere or similar areas. Instead, preserving existing SOC stocks would be a more suitable ecosystem service payment basis.

KeywordsCarbon sequestration; Land use ; Soil clay content; Soil organic carbon; Soil structure
Year of Publication2023
JournalSoil Use and Management
Journal citation39 (3), pp. 1068-1081
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/sum.12920
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Global Challenges Research Fund (UKRI)
Funder project or codeBBS/E/C000I0330
Growing Health [ISP]
S2N - Soil to Nutrition [ISPG]
Growing Health (WP2) - bio-inspired solutions for healthier agroecosystems: Understanding soil environments
Growing Health (WP3) - bio-inspired solutions for healthier agroecosystems: Discovery landscapes
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online30 May 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted20 May 2023
PublisherBritish Society of Soil Science (BSSS)
ISSN0266-0032

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