Perspective

Climate-smart soils

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Abstract

Soils are integral to the function of all terrestrial ecosystems and to food and fibre production. An overlooked aspect of soils is their potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Although proven practices exist, the implementation of soil-based greenhouse gas mitigation activities are at an early stage and accurately quantifying emissions and reductions remains a substantial challenge. Emerging research and information technology developments provide the potential for a broader inclusion of soils in greenhouse gas policies. Here we highlight ‘state of the art’ soil greenhouse gas research, summarize mitigation practices and potentials, identify gaps in data and understanding and suggest ways to close such gaps through new research, technology and collaboration.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Swan for figure design. We thank the following organisations for support: USDA/NIFA (grant number 2011-67003-30205 to K.P. and S.O.); USDA/NRCS (grant number CESU-68-7482-15-507 to K.P.); the NSF (grant number DEB 1027253 to G.P.R.); the US DOE (grant number DE-FCO2-07ER64494 to G.P.R.); NERC (grant number NE/M016900/1 to P.S.); and the Belmont Forum/FACCE-JPI (grant number NE/M021327/1 to P.S.).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

    • Keith Paustian
  2. Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

    • Keith Paustian
    •  & Stephen Ogle
  3. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

    • Johannes Lehmann
  4. Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

    • Stephen Ogle
  5. School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    • David Reay
  6. W. K. Kellogg Biological Station and Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

    • G. Philip Robertson
  7. Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

    • Pete Smith

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Contributions

K.P. led the development of the manuscript and the integration of content. All authors contributed equally to drafting sections of the manuscript and making revisions.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Keith Paustian.

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