Assessing the Climate Regulation Potential of Agricultural Soils Using a Decision Support Tool Adapted to Stakeholders' Needs and Possibilities

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Soils perform many functions that are vital to societies, among which their capability to regulate global climate has received much attention over the past decades. An assessment of the extent to which soils perform a specific function is not only important to appropriately value their current capacity, but also to make well-informed decisions about how and where to change soil management to align the delivered soil functions with societal demands. To obtain an overview of the capacity of soils to perform different functions, accurate and easy-to-use models are necessary. A problem with most currently-available models is that data requirements often exceed data availability, while generally a high level of expert knowledge is necessary to apply these models. Therefore, we developed a qualitative model to assess how agricultural soils function with respect to climate regulation. The model is driven by inputs about agricultural management practices, soil properties and environmental conditions. To reduce data requirements on stakeholders, the 17 input variables are classified into either (1) three classes: low, medium and high or (2) the presence or absence of a management practice. These inputs are combined using a decision tree with internal integration rules to obtain an estimate of the magnitude of N2O emissions and carbon sequestration. These two variables are subsequently combined into an estimate of the capacity of a soil to perform the climate regulation function. The model was tested using data from long-term field experiments across Europe. This showed that the model is generally able to adequately assess this soil function across a range of environments under different management practices. In a next step, this model will be combined with models to assess other soil functions (soil biodiversity, primary productivity, nutrient cycling and water regulation and purification). This will allow the assessment of trade-offs between these soil functions for agricultural land across Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Article number131
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • agroecosystems, carbon sequestration, climate regulation, NO emissions, qualitative decision modeling, soil functions

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