Historical advances in the study of global terrestrial soil organic carbon sequestration

Waste Manag. 2008;28(4):734-40. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2007.09.022. Epub 2007 Nov 26.


This paper serves two purposes: it provides a summarized scientific history of carbon sequestration in relation to the soil-plant system and gives a commentary on organic wastes and SOC sequestration. The concept of soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration has its roots in: (i) the experimental work of Lundegårdh, particularly his in situ measurements of CO2 fluxes at the soil-plant interface (1924, 1927, 1930); (ii) the first estimates of SOC stocks at the global level made by Waksman [Waksman, S.A., 1938. Humus. Origin, Chemical Composition and Importance in Nature, second ed. revised. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, p. 526] and Rubey [Rubey, W.W., 1951. Geologic history of sea water. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America 62, 1111-1148]; (iii) the need for models dealing with soil organic matter (SOM) or SOC dynamics beginning with a conceptual SOM model by De Saussure (1780-1796) followed by the mathematical models of Jenny [Jenny, H., 1941. Factors of Soil Formation: a System of Quantitative Pedology. Dover Publications, New York, p. 288], Hénin and Dupuis [Hénin, S., Dupuis, M., 1945. Essai de bilan de la matière organique. Annales d'Agronomie 15, 17-29] and more recently the RothC [Jenkinson, D.S., Rayner, J.H., 1977. The turnover of soil organic matter in some of the Rothamsted classical experiments. Soil Science 123 (5), 298-305] and Century [Parton, W.J., Schimel, D.S., Cole, C.V., Ojima, D.S., 1987. Analysis of factors controlling soil organic matter levels in great plains grasslands. Soil Science Society of America Journal 51 (5), 1173-1179] models. The establishment of a soil C sequestration balance is not straightforward and depends greatly on the origin and the composition of organic matter that is to be returned to the system. Wastes, which are important sources of organic carbon for soils, are taken as an example. For these organic materials the following factors have to be considered: the presence or absence of fossil C, the potential of direct and indirect emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases (CH4 and N2O) following application and the agro-system which is being used as a comparative reference.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Carbon / analysis*
  • Carbon / history
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Methane / analysis
  • Nitrous Oxide / analysis
  • Soil / analysis*
  • Waste Products


  • Air Pollutants
  • Soil
  • Waste Products
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Methane