Is soil carbon storage underestimated?

Chemosphere. 2010 Jun;80(3):346-9. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2010.04.038. Epub 2010 May 10.


An accurate evaluation of the carbon stored in soils is essential to fully understand the role of soils as source or sink of atmospheric CO(2), as well as the feedback processes involved in soil-atmosphere CO(2) exchange. Depth and strategies of sampling have been, and still are, sources of uncertainties, because most current estimates of carbon storage in soils are based on conventional soil surveys and data sets compiled primarily for agricultural purposes. In a study of the Guadix-Baza basin, a semiarid area of southern Spain, sizeable amounts of carbon have been found stored in the subsoil. Total carbon estimated within 2-m was 141.3 kg Cm(-2) compared to 36.1 kg Cm(-2) if estimates were based solely on conventional soil depths (e.g. 40-cm in Regosols and 100-cm in Fluvisols). Thus, the insufficient sampling depth could lead to considerable underestimation of global soil carbon. In order to correctly evaluate the carbon content in world soils, more specific studies must be planned and carried out, especially in those soils where caliche and other carbonated cemented horizons are present.

MeSH terms

  • Atmosphere / analysis
  • Carbon / analysis*
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Carbonates / analysis
  • Desert Climate
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Monitoring / standards
  • Humic Substances / analysis
  • Soil / analysis*
  • Soil / standards
  • Spain


  • Carbonates
  • Humic Substances
  • Soil
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon