Australian soils play major role in carbon sequestration

Australia is one of ten countries that account for 60% of the the 680 billion tonnes of carbon stored in the top 30 cm of soil around the world, and action should be taken to protect these natural carbon-rich soils to avoid emissions to the atmosphere, according to a major project launched late last year by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

Australia's significance as a terrestrial carbon sink was highlighted in the FAO's first ever Global Soil Organic Carbon Map which drew together data from the carbon maps of 110 participating countries, showing that the top 30 cm of soil contains around 680 billion tonnes of carbon - almost double the amount present in the atmosphere. The Map identifies natural areas with high carbon storage, as well as regions where there is the possibility for further sequestration.

More than 60% of the 680 billion tonnes of carbon is found in ten countries - Russia, Canada, USA, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Australia, Argentine, Kazakhstan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The map also highlights the degradation of soils that has led to massive carbon emissions into the atmosphere, and analysis finds that restoring these soils could remove up to 63 billion tonnes of carbon, significantly reducing the effects of climate change.

More information about the Global Soil Organic Carbon Map is available here.

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