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Predicted soil organic carbon stocks and changes in the Brazilian Amazon between 2000 and 2030

Cerri, C.E.P., Easter, M., Paustian, K., Killian, K., Coleman, K., Bernoux, M., Falloon, P., Powlson, D.S., Batjes, N.H., Milne, E.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2007 v.122 no.1 pp. 58-72
prediction, soil organic carbon, land use, land use change, carbon sequestration, sustainable agriculture, deforestation, environmental models, soil science, pastures, Brazil, Amazonia
Currently we have little understanding of the impacts of land use change on soil C stocks in the Brazilian Amazon. Such information is needed to determine impacts on the global C cycle and the sustainability of agricultural systems that are replacing native forest. The aim of this study was to predict soil carbon stocks and changes in the Brazilian Amazon during the period between 2000 and 2030, using the GEFSOC soil carbon (C) modelling system. In order to do so, we devised current and future land use scenarios for the Brazilian Amazon, taking into account: (i) deforestation rates from the past three decades, (ii) census data on land use from 1940 to 2000, including the expansion and intensification of agriculture in the region, (iii) available information on management practices, primarily related to well managed pasture versus degraded pasture and conventional systems versus no-tillage systems for soybean (Glycine max) and (iv) FAO predictions on agricultural land use and land use changes for the years 2015 and 2030. The land use scenarios were integrated with spatially explicit soils data (SOTER database), climate, potential natural vegetation and land management units using the recently developed GEFSOC soil C modelling system. Results are presented in map, table and graph form for the entire Brazilian Amazon for the current situation (1990 and 2000) and the future (2015 and 2030). Results include soil organic C (SOC) stocks and SOC stock change rates estimated by three methods: (i) the Century ecosystem model, (ii) the Rothamsted C model and (iii) the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) method for assessing soil C at regional scale. In addition, we show estimated values of above and belowground biomass for native vegetation, pasture and soybean. The results on regional SOC stocks compare reasonably well with those based on mapping approaches. The GEFSOC system provided a means of efficiently handling complex interactions among biotic-edapho-climatic conditions (>363,000 combinations) in a very large area (approximately 500 Mha) such as the Brazilian Amazon. All of the methods used showed a decline in SOC stock for the period studied; Century and RothC simulated values for 2030 being about 7% lower than those in 1990. Values from Century and RothC (30,430 and 25,000 Tg for the 0-20 cm layer for the Brazilian Amazon region were higher than those obtained from the IPCC system (23,400 Tg in the 0-30 cm layer). Finally, our results can help understand the major biogeochemical cycles that influence soil fertility and help devise management strategies that enhance the sustainability of these areas and thus slow further deforestation.