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The CarboSMS consortium – Soil organic carbon stabilisation mechanisms

The storage or release of soil carbon results from interconnected, biotic and abiotic mechanisms that are active at fine spatial scales. The aim of the CarboSMS consortium is to federate research on these mechanisms and their action on C stocks in the context of local or global change (land use, farming practices, climatic or edaphic conditions, etc.).

Soil. © fotolia
Updated on 09/05/2017
Published on 07/06/2017

The international "4 per 1000" initiative aims to support governments and non-governmental actors in their efforts to improve the management of soil carbon (C) stocks. These stocks are dependent on the sequestration and output of soil carbon which result from interconnected mechanisms acting at fine spatial scales, leading to the storage or release of carbon present in organic matter (OM).

A scientific consortium to answer a research question

The need to federate research on these mechanisms led to the creation of the CarboSMS consortium – Soil organic carbon stabilisation mechanisms. The consortium groups some 120 people in France – doctoral students, postdoctoral scientists, engineers and research teams, who are working on soil organic C stabilisation mechanisms. It is organised around a research issue independent of the institutional affiliation of each member.

The consortium has already organised a scientific seminar (in March 2016) on the processes and mechanisms governing C stabilisation in soils, and through a synthetic article it contributed to the “4 per 1000” debate in the area focused on “Soil organic C stabilisation mechanisms”.

An update on recent advances and prospects for the future

The seminar and article offered an update on recent advances in our understanding of these stabilisation mechanisms. Biotic mechanisms correspond to the effects of plants (the principal source of C, notably via their root systems), micro-organisms (fungi and bacteria) and ecosystem engineers (earthworms, termites, ants) on soil organic C stocks. Abiotic processes are linked to the physical structure of soil, the organisation of its porosity and its mineral fraction: the inclusion of OM in aggregates, association with minerals, etc.  These biotic and abiotic mechanisms occur both concomitantly and in interaction.

In parallel, two areas for reflection have been highlighted: the first focuses on determining our current knowledge of the mechanisms of OM dynamics involved in agricultural and forestry practices, while the second seeks to identify whether taking better account of the mechanisms that govern the stabilisation of soil organic matter (using indicators or modelling) could improve forecasts concerning the evolution of soil carbon stocks.

Discussions by the consortium will be pursued during the ResMO2018 seminar organised by the Organic Matter Network in Trégastel (FR) from 4 to 8 February 2018. One session during this seminar will be devoted to organic matter stabilisation mechanisms and the estimation of soil carbon stocks.

Find out more

Dignac M.-F. et al. 2017. Increasing soil carbon storage: mechanisms, effects of agricultural practices and proxies. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 37: 14.

Derrien D. et al.  2016. Stocker du C dans les sols : Quels mécanismes, quelles pratiques agricoles, quels indicateurs ? Etude et Gestion des Sols 23 : 193.