Soil carbon research

Soil carbon research undertaken through the Climate Change Research Program has improved our understanding of the impact of climate, land use and management practices on soil carbon levels.

The research also made major advances in measuring of soil carbon, including the development of a standard sampling protocol. These advances will ensure that soil carbon content is measured consistently across Australia and are needed to better understand the degree to which land use and management practices influence the levels of carbon in the soil.

The standard procedures developed for sample collection and analysis can be found in the CSIRO report National Soil Carbon Research Program: Field and Laboratory Methodologies.

Some key findings

  • There was no strong or consistent evidence indicating that management practices, including no till, led to increases in soil carbon. These results were consistent across sites that had a long prior history of soil carbon sampling (10 years) to those tested for the first time under the program (3 years).
  • In most areas, soil type and rainfall were the strongest determinants of soil carbon levels with management practice having a minor influence.
  • Soils under perennial pastures tend to have higher soil carbon levels than soils under annual crops.

A technical summary highlighting the key findings on soil carbon research through the Climate Change Research Program is provided below:

Fact sheets, case studies and DVD’s providing an overview the Climate Change Research Program and a summary of the research outcomes and are available.