15 Jun 2021

15 Jun 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

SOC sequestration potentials for agricultural management practices under climate change

Tobias Herzfeld, Jens Heinke, Susanne Rolinski, and Christoph Müller Tobias Herzfeld et al.
  • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Member of the Leibniz Association, P.O. Box 60 12 03, 14412 Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Sequestration of soil organic carbon (SOC) on cropland has been proposed as a climate change mitigation strategy to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere, which is in particular needed to achieve the targets proposed in the Paris Agreement to limit the increase in atmospheric temperature to well below 2 °C. We here analyze the historical evolution and future development of cropland SOC using the global process-based biophysical model LPJmL, which was recently extended by a detailed representation of tillage practices and residues management (version 5.0–tillage2). We find that model results for historical global estimates for SOC stocks are at the upper end of available literature, with ~2650 Pg C of SOC stored globally in the year 2018, of which ~170 Pg C are stored in cropland soils. In future projections, assuming no further changes in current cropland patterns and under four different management assumptions with two different climate forcings, RCP2.6, and RCP8.5, results suggest that agricultural SOC stocks decline in all scenarios, as the decomposition of SOC outweighs the increase of carbon inputs into the soil from altered management practices. Different climate-change scenarios, as well as assumptions on tillage management, play a minor role in explaining differences in SOC stocks. The choice of tillage practice explains between 0.2 % and 1.3 % of total cropland SOC stock change in the year 2100. Future dynamics in cropland SOC are most strongly controlled by residue management, whether residues are left on the field or harvested. We find that on current cropland, global cropland SOC stocks decline until the end of the century by only 1.0 % to 1.4 % if residue-retention management systems are generally applied and by 26.7 % to 27.3 % in case of residues harvest. For different climatic regions, increases in cropland SOC can only be found for tropical dry, warm temperate moist, and warm temperate dry regions in management systems that retain residues.

Tobias Herzfeld et al.

Status: open (until 11 Aug 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on esd-2021-35', Anonymous Referee #1, 22 Jul 2021 reply

Tobias Herzfeld et al.

Model code and software

LPJmL Model Source Code (version 5.0-tillage2) Tobias Herzfeld, Jens Heinke, Susanne Rolinski and Christoph Müller

Tobias Herzfeld et al.


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Short summary
Soil organic carbon sequestration on cropland has been proposed as a climate change mitigation strategy. We here simulate different agricultural management practices under climate change scenarios, using a global biophysical model. We find that at the global aggregated level, agricultural management practices are not capable to enhance carbon storage in the soil, yet for some climate regions, we find that there is the potential to enhance the carbon content in cropland soils.