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The GSOCmap, a stepping stone in our knowledge of soils

World’s most comprehensive map showing the amount of carbon stocks in the soil launched

Preserving and increasing soil carbon stocks is vital for food production and climate change mitigation, FAO says on World Soil Day

The Global Soil Organic Carbon Map (GSOCmap) is not just a map! It is also a consultative and participatory process involving 110 countries, which makes this map totally new and unique!

The GSOCmap provides users with very useful information to monitor the soil condition, identify degraded areas, set restoration targets, explore SOC sequestration potentials, support the greenhouse gas emission reporting under the UNFCCC and make evidence based decisions to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.

National soil carbon mapping around the globe, a country-driven process

The Global Soil Partnership, its Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) launched a global endeavor to develop a Global Soil Organic Carbon map (GSOCMap) by the end of 2017, in support of the Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 15.3.1. The quality of soil carbon information at global level is still limited because much existing national information has not yet been shared. A precise and reliable global view on soil organic carbon (SOC) is needed under different UN conventions, such as the UN Convention on Desertification (UNCCD), but especially as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). At national level, such data can be used as reference soil carbon stocks, with the aim to refine national greenhouse gas inventories, and to assess the sensitivity of soils to degradation and climate change.

The global soil carbon map consists of national SOC maps, developed as 1 km soil grids, covering a depth of 0-30 cm. A generic GSOC mapping guideline has been developed, which provides definitions and methodological options. The formulae to calculate national soil carbon stocks follow the good practice guidance by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2006). Digital soil mapping is recommended for the spatial mapping of soil properties (see Pillar 4 Implementation Plan); This includes the national SOC maps. 

GSOC mapping Guideline

The GSOC mapping guideline contains definitions which are intended to ensure that national maps become comparable globally. GSOC map is the first global soil property map, produced among a series of other soil properties according to GSP Pillar 4, which will follow in the mid-term future.

In order to develop technical support, a cookbook for soil carbon mapping was produced. This cookbook is also used for workshops and e-learning.

Grids and GIS data

In order to support  national SOC mapping, empty 1x1 kilometer grids and ancillary GIS data were prepared by ISRIC World Soil Information. The grids and data are available per country at (User: gsp / Password: gspisric). By clicking on the relevant country, the national 1x1 kilometer grids are available in the “mask” directory.

Contact point: bas.kempen [at] (Bas Kempen)

For more information: ISRIC capacity building

GSOC mapping programme

The global soil carbon mapping programme was initiated during the preparations of the second meeting of the International Network of Soil Information Institutions (INSII), 24 and 24 December 2016, and discussed there in detail. In front of that meeting, a special technical session about soil carbon mapping was held 23 November 2016. During this session, the mapping specifications and the detailed methodologies were discussed, and examples of national SOC maps presented. Since these meetings, GSP partners have shared details about their mapping approaches and the national contact partners. An intermediate progress assessment of GSOCmap was presented during GSOC17 (link to the presentation). Developing the GSOCmap has been a challenge which required intensive collaboration among soil information institutions globally. Besides guideline and cookbook, various specific training events support GSP partners to engage in the GSOCmap programme. E-learning materials on DSM (soon available) 

Explore the map

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Map and key findings

More about the map

GSOCmap information leaflet

Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon (GSOC17)   21-23 March 2017

Facts and Figures about Soil

• Through sustainable soil management we could produce up to 58% more food. Soil preservation is essential for Zero Hunger world. 95% of food is produced on our soils.

• Worldwide, nearly 80% of the average calories consumption per person comes from crops directly grown in the soil.

• It can take up to 1000 years to form 1cm of soil. 

• Soils can sequester around 20 000 megatonnes of carbon in 25 years, more than 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions

• Soils filter sediment, pesticides, plant nutrients, salts, bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, organic chemicals from freshwater resources.

• There are more living individual organisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people on earth.

• The majority of the known antibiotics originated from soil bacteria, including penicillin.


Why is soil organic carbon so important?

FAO Land and Water Officer Ronald Vargas elaborates on the advantages of the new map.