Tropical soil carbon and land use

Term: October 2009-September 2010

Funding: USAID-Translinks

Project contacts: PI: Erika Marin-Spiotta, UW graduate student: Emily Atkinson, Communications director: Kurt Brown

Participating institutions: LTC (lead).

Summary: Soil carbon stocks are a vital component of ecosystem services, particularly in the humid tropics. The release of soil carbon due to tropical deforestation and/or land use change is a major source of greenhouse gases contributing to global climate change. Soil carbon and nutrient cycling is also connected to local ecosystem function and biodiversity levels.

The goal of this project is to generate a policy briefing on tropical soil carbon to be presented to policy makers during the summer of 2010. We plan to accomplish two things: 1) provide an explanation of what soil carbon is and why it is important in the context of carbon sequestration and climate change, and 2) provide information on the distribution and scale of soil carbon stocks in the tropics and the impact of land use change on these stocks. We will place particular emphasis on explaining the variable response of tropical soils to land use. To accomplish this, we will review and synthesize the substantial recent peer-reviewed literature on tropical soil carbon stocks and distill this complex and highly technical research into key lessons for policy makers engaged in decisions regarding REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and other carbon-oriented PES (Payments for Ecosystem Services) in the tropics.


LTC Brief 12: "Tropical Land Use Change and Soil Carbon: Implications for REDD Policies," by Emily Atkinson: University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Erika Marã­n-Spiotta: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The release of soil carbon due to changes in land use can be a major source of greenhouse gases. This brief illustrates the distribution and scale of soil carbon in the humid tropics, an area with high concentrations of carbon soil stocks. The brief further analysis the impact that various land use changes have on these stocks, and the implications for climate change. (NOTE: this will be translated to Spanish for use in the region.) PowerPoint: "Tropical Land Use Change and Soil Carbon: Implications for REDD." (Available upon request.)