Soil organic matter, with carbon as its main component, is crucial to soil health and fertility, water infiltration and retention as well as food production. As a major carbon storage system, conserving and restoring soils are essential for both sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation.
The world's soils act as the largest terrestrial carbon sink, reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Intensifying this role could significantly offset the rapid rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In a historic decision on agriculture, the recent climate change conference in Bonn (COP23) recognized the need for improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility.
The Global Soil Organic Carbon Map, illustrating the amount of soil organic carbon stock in the first 30 cm of soil, reveals natural areas with high carbon storage that require its conservation, as well as those regions where there is the possibility for further sequestration.
This information can prove a powerful tool to guide decision-making on practices that aim to preserve and increase the current soil carbon stocks, helping win the fight against climate change.
"Soil is the foundation of agriculture, it is where food begins," said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo. "Maintaining the soil's important functions and ecosystem services to support food production and increase resilience to a changing climate calls for sustainable soil management practices."