Soil organic carbon (SOC) content can greatly affect soil quality by determining and maintaining important soil physical conditions, properties and soil functions. Management practices that maintain or enhance SOC affect soil quality and may favour the capacity of soils to sequester further organic carbon. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of these measures depends upon both the soil characteristics and the current SOC content. This study defines an indicator of soil potential stability (n-potential) allowing the most effective practices in terms of soil stability and capacity to store organic carbon to be selected. By relating the clay content to SOC content, the n-potential indicates the “potential” presence of non-complexed clay (NCC) in soils, enabling the soil stability and its capacity to store carbon (C) to be inferred. In this work, we classify soils of European regions based on five n-potential categories (i.e. >20; 15–20; 10–15; 5–10; <5). By relating the information provided by the n-potential to the specific texture of the analysed soils, priority actions (i.e. protecting the existing soil stability or promoting soil aggregate formation) that should be adopted are identified. Our findings show that the selection of the appropriate SOC management practices can greatly contribute improving soils of European regions in terms of quality and capacity to store organic carbon. The n-potential contributes to the understanding of the physical consequences on soils arising from implementation of SOC management practices. This can guide the development of policies promoting the application of such practices, and can help farmers to select the practices that are most effective in maintaining or increasing of SOC content and soil stability.
We wish to thank all participants to the SmartSOIL project for their inspiring inputs and debates and for having shared their valuable expertise, contributing to the success of this project. Furthermore, we are grateful to the financial support from the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union (Call identifier: FP7-KBBE-2011-5; project number: 289694).
- SOC management practices
- soil stability
- European soils