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Australian net (1950s–1990) soil organic carbon erosion: implications for CO2 emission and land–atmosphere modelling

Chappell, A., Webb, N. P., Viscarra Rossel, R. A. and Bui, E. 2014. Australian net (1950s–1990) soil organic carbon erosion: implications for CO2 emission and land–atmosphere modelling. Biogeosciences 11 (18) , pp. 5235-5244. 10.5194/bg-11-5235-2014

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The debate remains unresolved about soil erosion substantially offsetting fossil fuel emissions and acting as an important source or sink of CO2. There is little historical land use and management context to this debate, which is central to Australia's recent past of European settlement, agricultural expansion and agriculturally-induced soil erosion. We use "catchment" scale (∼25 km2) estimates of 137Cs-derived net (1950s–1990) soil redistribution of all processes (wind, water and tillage) to calculate the net soil organic carbon (SOC) redistribution across Australia. We approximate the selective removal of SOC at net eroding locations and SOC enrichment of transported sediment and net depositional locations. We map net (1950s–1990) SOC redistribution across Australia and estimate erosion by all processes to be ∼4 Tg SOC yr−1, which represents a loss of ∼2% of the total carbon stock (0–10 cm) of Australia. Assuming this net SOC loss is mineralised, the flux (∼15 Tg CO2-equivalents yr−1) represents an omitted 12% of CO2-equivalent emissions from all carbon pools in Australia. Although a small source of uncertainty in the Australian carbon budget, the mass flux interacts with energy and water fluxes, and its omission from land surface models likely creates more uncertainty than has been previously recognised.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Publisher: European Geosciences Union (EGU) / Copernicus Publications
ISSN: 1726-4170
Date of Acceptance: 2 September 2014
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2018 16:30

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