22 Sep 2017

22 Sep 2017

Review status: this discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.

Ideas and perspectives: Can we use the soil carbon saturation deficit to quantitatively assess the soil carbon storage potential, or should we explore other strategies?

Pierre Barré1, Denis A. Angers2, Isabelle Basile-Doelsch3, Antonio Bispo4, Lauric Cécillon5, Claire Chenu6, Tiphaine Chevallier7, Delphine Derrien8, Thomas K. Eglin4, and Sylvain Pellerin9 Pierre Barré et al.
  • 1Laboratoire de Géologie de l'ENS, PSL Research University, UMR8538 du CNRS, 24 rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris, France
  • 2Quebec Research and Development Centre. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2560 Boul. Hochelaga, Québec, Québec, GIV 2J3 Canada
  • 3Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Coll France, INRA, CEREGE, F-13545 Aix-en-Provence, France
  • 4ADEME, Direction Productions et Energies Durables, 20 av. du Grésillé, 49000 Angers, France
  • 5Université Grenoble Alpes, IRSTEA, 2 rue de la Papeterie, 38402, St-Martin-d'Hères, France
  • 6UMR ECOSYS, INRA-AgroParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay AgroParisTech, 78850 Thiverval-Grignon, France
  • 7UMR ECO&SOLS, IRD, Campus SupAgro, 34060 Montpellier Cedex 2, France
  • 8Biogéochimie des Ecosystèmes Forestiers, INRA, 54280 Champenoux, France
  • 9UMR ISPA, INRA, 33883 Villenave d'Ornon Cédex, France

Abstract. An increase in soil organic carbon stock can contribute to mitigate climate change. International negotiation mechanisms and initiatives call for countries to consider land use change and soil management to achieve atmospheric CO2 removal through storage in terrestrial systems ( As a result, policy makers raised a specific operational question to the soil science community: how much and at which annual rate additional carbon can be stored in soils in different locations? It has been suggested that the ability of a soil to store additional organic carbon can be estimated from its carbon saturation deficit (Csat-def), which is defined as the difference between the maximum amount of carbon that can be associated to its fine (< 20 µm) fraction and the current amount of carbon associated to its fine fraction. In this opinion paper, we explain why, for conceptual reasons, the soil Csat-def is not appropriate, at least in its present form, for assessing quantitatively the whole-soil (total) organic carbon storage potential for operational purposes. We then propose alternative approaches based on new opportunities offered by the development of national and international soil monitoring programs (possibly coupled with modelling) that can provide quantitatively relevant estimates of soil total carbon storage potential. This pragmatic approach will require a sustained effort to maintain and develop soil monitoring programs worldwide and research allowing proper use of such a large amount of data.

Pierre Barré et al.

Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement

Pierre Barré et al.

Pierre Barré et al.


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Short summary
Soil C storage is currently discussed at a high political level. This paper discusses whether the concept of soil C saturation deficit can be appropriate to determine quantitatively the soil C storage potential and contribute to answer operational questions raised by policy makers. After a review of the literature, we conclude that for practical and conceptual reasons, the C saturation deficit is not appropriate for assessing quantitatively the soil total OC storage potential.