Carbon sequestration in the agricultural soils of Europe

A. Freibauer, M.D.A. Rounsevell, P. Smith, A. Verhagen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    709 Citations (Scopus)


    In this review, technical and economically viable potentials for carbon sequestration in the agricultural soils of Europe by 2008¿2012 are analysed against a business-as-usual scenario. We provide a quantitative estimation of the carbon absorption potential per hectare and the surface of agricultural land that is available and suitable for the implementation of those measures, their environmental effects as well as the effects on farm income. Realistically, agricultural soils in EU-15 can sequester up to 16¿19 Mt C year¿1 during the first Kyoto commitment period (2008¿2012), which is less than one fifth of the theoretical potential and equivalent to 2% of European anthropogenic emissions. We identified as most promising measures: the promotion of organic inputs on arable land instead of grassland, the introduction of perennials (grasses, trees) on arable set-aside land for conservation or biofuel purposes, to promote organic farming, to raise the water table in farmed peatland, and¿with restrictions¿zero tillage or conservation tillage. Many options have environmental benefits but some risk of increasing N2O emissions. For most measures it is impossible to determine the overall impact on farm profitability. Efficient carbon sequestration in agricultural soils demands a permanent management change and implementation concepts adjusted to local soil, climate and management features in order to allow selection of areas with high carbon sequestering potential. Some of the present agricultural policy schemes have probably helped to maintain carbon stocks in agricultural soils
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-23
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • organic-matter
    • drained peatlands
    • land-use
    • mitigation
    • forest
    • co2
    • restoration
    • fractions
    • emissions
    • nitrogen


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