Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon - Concept note and Agenda

Back to search

Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon - Concept note and Agenda  

In the presence of climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss, soils have become one of the most vulnerable resources in the world. Notwithstanding the enormous scientific progress made to date, protection and monitoring of soil resources at national
and global levels still face complicated challenges impeding effective on-the-ground policy design and implementation that varies widely from region to region. There is still insufficient global support for the protection and sustainable management of the world’s
soil resources.

Soils host the largest terrestrial carbon pool 2 and play a crucial role in the global carbon balance by regulating dynamic bio-geochemical processes and the exchange of greenhouse gases (GHG) with the atmosphere. 

Soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks amount to an estimated 1,500 ±230 GtC in the first meter of soil, nearly twice as much as atmospheric carbon (828 GtC as CO2). After the burning of fossil fuels, land use and land cover change (which includes agriculture)
is the largest anthropogenic source of carbon into the atmosphere  and within agriculture, soils have been a global net source of GHGs. These processes and emissions are strongly affected by land use, land use change, vegetation cover and soil management.

GLOBAL SYMPOSIUM ON SOIL ORGANIC CARBON (GSOC17); Co-organized by FAO, GSP/ITPS, IPCC, UNCCD-SPI and WMO
21 – 23 MARCH 2017; FAO HQ, ROME, ITALY

Read the key messages here

Expected Output

The symposium output will be a scientific document highlighting the role of soils and SOC management in meeting the climate change and sustainable development agendas that could be assessed by IPCC in its regular reports, starting with SR2, the refinement of the inventory guidelines, and AR6, as well as reporting to UNFCCC, UNCCD and the SDGs.

The document will present an overview of the state-of-the-art in SOC monitoring, measures to maintain and enhance SOC, and recommended methods for monitoring and reporting SOC.

Main Aim

The overall aim of the symposium is to review the role of soils and SOC in the context of climate change and sustainable development and build scientific evidence that could be assessed in the regular IPCC Assessment Reports, starting with the AR6 report and other reports to be produced during the 6th assessment cycle, as well as reporting to UNFCCC, UNCCD and reporting on the SDGs.

The three main themes will be:

  1. Measuring, mapping, monitoring and reporting SOC
  2. Maintaining and/or increasing SOC stocks (fostering SOC sequestration) for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and Land Degradation Neutrality
  3. Special focus: Managing SOC in soils with high SOC - peatlands, permafrost, and black soils (Mollisols, Chernozems/ Kastanozems/ Phaeozems)

Abstracts and papers for key topics will be invited to support the above themes and incorporate case studies from different countries. Guidelines for the preparation of abstracts and papers will be provided.

Participants will include representatives from FAO member states, UNCCD country Parties, organizing institutions, relevant Panels, presenters whose abstracts are accepted and scientists working in related fields.

The specific objectives of the symposium are to:

  1. Examine the current scientific and technical understanding of the role of soils and SOC in the climate system for carbon sequestration and climate adaptation.
  2. Review the potential and limitations of SOC management to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, addressing land degradation, and meeting the sustainable development goals.
  3. Review current knowledge on land and soil management impacts on SOC (and SOC stabilization and destabilization mechanisms), including identification of practices that increase SOC.
  4. Enable and strengthen the provision of knowledge on SOC measurement, modeling and management, land degradation, and the interlinkages with other carbon pools to inform upcoming IPCC assessment reports and reports to initiatives addressing land degradation.
  5. Identify knowledge gaps and explore opportunities for collaborative research.
  6. Identify policy options for relevant soil and SOC priorities to encourage the adoption of practices that enhance SOC under national climate change agendas.