Evaluating carbon stocks in British forest soils

Results from the first comprehensive survey of forest soil carbon stocks in Great Britain

News from Forest Research: July 2009

Digging pit in forest soil

With climate change a growing concern, so too is the ability to store carbon in a form other than atmospheric carbon dioxide. More than twice the amount of carbon is held in the Earth’s soil as is contained in its vegetation. Forest soils in particular contain major stores of carbon, exceeding those for most other land types and uses. The stability of these stores is of primary importance to climate change mitigation, so an accurate inventory and monitoring programme was needed. Now, the results from the first comprehensive survey of forest soil carbon stocks in Great Britain have just been finalised.

The survey was carried out between 2005–2008 as part of the EU BioSoil project, co-funded under the EU Forest Focus Regulation. The BioSoil survey in Great Britain covered a total of 167 sites across Scotland, England and Wales, and assessed carbon stocks down to a depth of 80 cm.

The results show that the average total carbon stock in forest soils across the UK is in the range 240–570 tonnes of CO2 per hectare. Carbon content varied with soil depth, soil type, forest type and stand age, with the majority of the carbon present within the upper soil layers. Deep peats contain the most carbon, with brown earths having the least. Total forest soil carbon stocks were highest in Scotland (482 Mt CO2), followed by England (129 Mt CO2) and then Wales (53 Mt CO2).

This detailed evaluation of carbon stocks in British forest soils provides the necessary baseline for evaluating future change. It also provides vital data for forest carbon accounting and models that predict the impacts of changes in climate and forest management on soil carbon dynamics.

For more information visit Forest Focus - BioSoil project or contact Elena Vanguelova.


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This and other news stories can be found in the July 2009 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.