Knowledge for better food systems

Report: Soil carbon and land use in Scotland

Scotland’s soils contain over half of the UK’s soil carbon stock, making it important to know how to avoid soil carbon loss. The Scottish landscape is currently a net sink for carbon (mainly due to forestry). A recent report assesses current knowledge on soil carbon and land use in Scotland.

It sets out areas of where knowledge is firm, debated or lacking across the topics of:

  • Soil types and their carbon content across Scotland
  • Sequestration potential across different land uses
  • Greenhouse gas emissions across land uses
  • Impacts of land use change and climate change
  • Effects on soil carbon by land management practices such as reduced tillage, cover crops and returning residues such as straw or stubble to the soil.

The report finds that reduction of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture probably outweigh the potential greenhouse gas savings from carbon sequestration. However, there are opportunities for land management to remove carbon from the atmosphere, particularly through restoration of degraded peatlands. Reporting procedures should be improved to account for changes in soil carbon. There is considerable uncertainty over whether climate change will increase or decrease Scottish soil carbon stocks.

Find the full report here. See also the Foodsource resources How do food systems affect land-use and biodiversity? and Impacts of climatic and environmental change on food systems.

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