Soil erosion is unlikely to drive a future carbon sink in Europe

Emanuele Lugato (Corresponding Author), Pete Smith, Pasquale Borrelli, Panos Panagos, Cristiano Ballabio, Alberto Orgiazzi, Oihane Fernandez-Ugalde, Luca Montanarella, Arwyn Jones

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Abstract

Understanding of the processes governing soil organic carbon turnover is confounded by the fact that C feedbacks driven by soil erosion have not yet been fully explored at large scale. However, in a changing climate, variation in rainfall erosivity (and hence soil erosion) may change the amount of C displacement, hence inducing feedbacks onto the land C cycle. Using a consistent biogeochemistry-erosion model framework to quantify the impact of future climate on the C cycle, we show that C input increases were offset by higher heterotrophic respiration under climate change. Taking into account all the additional feedbacks and C fluxes due to displacement by erosion, we estimated a net source of 0.92 to 10.1 Tg C year−1 from agricultural soils in the European Union to the atmosphere over the period 2016–2100. These ranges represented a weaker and stronger C source compared to a simulation without erosion (1.8 Tg C year−1), respectively, and were dependent on the erosion-driven C loss parameterization, which is still very uncertain. However, when setting a baseline with current erosion rates, the accelerated erosion scenario resulted in 35% more eroded C, but its feedback on the C cycle was marginal. Our results challenge the idea that higher erosion driven by climate will lead to a C sink in the near future.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaau3523
Number of pages7
JournalScience Advances
Volume4
Issue number11
Early online date14 Nov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

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Carbon Sequestration
Soil
Climate
Climate Change
European Union
Atmosphere
Respiration
Carbon

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Lugato, E., Smith, P., Borrelli, P., Panagos, P., Ballabio, C., Orgiazzi, A., ... Jones, A. (2018). Soil erosion is unlikely to drive a future carbon sink in Europe. Science Advances, 4(11), [eaau3523]. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aau3523

Soil erosion is unlikely to drive a future carbon sink in Europe. / Lugato, Emanuele (Corresponding Author); Smith, Pete; Borrelli, Pasquale; Panagos, Panos; Ballabio, Cristiano; Orgiazzi, Alberto; Fernandez-Ugalde, Oihane; Montanarella, Luca; Jones, Arwyn.

In: Science Advances, Vol. 4, No. 11, eaau3523, 11.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lugato, E, Smith, P, Borrelli, P, Panagos, P, Ballabio, C, Orgiazzi, A, Fernandez-Ugalde, O, Montanarella, L & Jones, A 2018, 'Soil erosion is unlikely to drive a future carbon sink in Europe', Science Advances, vol. 4, no. 11, eaau3523. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aau3523
Lugato E, Smith P, Borrelli P, Panagos P, Ballabio C, Orgiazzi A et al. Soil erosion is unlikely to drive a future carbon sink in Europe. Science Advances. 2018 Nov;4(11). eaau3523. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aau3523
Lugato, Emanuele ; Smith, Pete ; Borrelli, Pasquale ; Panagos, Panos ; Ballabio, Cristiano ; Orgiazzi, Alberto ; Fernandez-Ugalde, Oihane ; Montanarella, Luca ; Jones, Arwyn. / Soil erosion is unlikely to drive a future carbon sink in Europe. In: Science Advances. 2018 ; Vol. 4, No. 11.
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note = "Acknowledgements: The work was carried out as part of the JRC's Institutional Work Programme under the Natural Capital Soil Project (Project 702), Work Package 5037 “Soil for Climate Change”. We thank Irene Biavetti for her graphical support in designing Fig. 2. Data and materials availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are available at the European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC) of the European Commission – Joint Research Centre: http://esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu/. Additional data related to this paper may be requested from the authors.",
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AB - Understanding of the processes governing soil organic carbon turnover is confounded by the fact that C feedbacks driven by soil erosion have not yet been fully explored at large scale. However, in a changing climate, variation in rainfall erosivity (and hence soil erosion) may change the amount of C displacement, hence inducing feedbacks onto the land C cycle. Using a consistent biogeochemistry-erosion model framework to quantify the impact of future climate on the C cycle, we show that C input increases were offset by higher heterotrophic respiration under climate change. Taking into account all the additional feedbacks and C fluxes due to displacement by erosion, we estimated a net source of 0.92 to 10.1 Tg C year−1 from agricultural soils in the European Union to the atmosphere over the period 2016–2100. These ranges represented a weaker and stronger C source compared to a simulation without erosion (1.8 Tg C year−1), respectively, and were dependent on the erosion-driven C loss parameterization, which is still very uncertain. However, when setting a baseline with current erosion rates, the accelerated erosion scenario resulted in 35% more eroded C, but its feedback on the C cycle was marginal. Our results challenge the idea that higher erosion driven by climate will lead to a C sink in the near future.

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