The carbon sequestration potential of terrestrial ecosystems

Rattan Lal, Pete Smith, Hermann F. Jungkunst, William J. Mitsch, Johannes Lehmann, P. K. Ramachandran Nair, Alex B. McBratney, João Carlos De Moraes Sá, Julia Schneider, Yuri L. Zinn, Alba L.A. Skorupa, Hai Lin Zhang, Budiman Minasny, Cherukumalli Srinivasrao, Nijavalli H. Ravindranath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Terrestrial ecosystems, comprising vegetation and soil in uplands and wetlands, significantly impact the global carbon (C) cycle and, under natural conditions, are a sink of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). However, conversion of natural to managed ecosystems (i.e., agroecosystems, urban lands, and mined lands) depletes ecosystem C stocks, aggravates gaseous emissions, and exacerbates radiative forcing. Thus, the onset of agriculture around 8000 BC presumably transformed these sinks into a source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) (Ruddiman 2003), mostly CO2, CH4, and nitrous oxide (N2O), and depleted the terrestrial (soil, vegetation, and peatlands) C stocks. Ruddiman (2005) estimated the depletion of the terrestrial C stock (soil and vegetation) by 456 Pg (502.65 × 109 tn) since the onset of agriculture. Of this, the historic depletion of soil organic carbon (SOC) stock is estimated at 130 to 135 Pg (143.3 × 109 to 148.8 × 109 tn) (Sanderman et al. 2017; Lal 2018). Therefore, recarbonization of some of the terrestrial biosphere (soil and vegetation) is an important strategy to mitigate the anthropogenic climate change (ACC) and enhance other ecosystem services because of the link between SOC stock and atmospheric concentration of CO2 (Trenberth and Smith 2005).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145A-152A
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Soil and Water Conservation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018


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