Monitoring and verification of soil carbon changes under Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol

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The Marrakech Accords allow biospheric carbon sinks and sources to be included in attempts to meet emission reduction targets for the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Forest management, cropland management, grazing land management and re-vegetation are allowable activities under Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol. Soil carbon sinks and sources can therefore be included under these activities. The Kyoto Protocol states that sinks and sources of carbon should be accounted for 'taking into account uncertainties, transparency in reporting, verifiability'. At its most stringent, verifiability would entail the sampling of each geo-referenced piece of land subject to an Article 3.4 activity at the beginning and end of a commitment period, using a sampling regime that gives adequate statistical power. Soil and vegetation samples and records would be archived and the data from each piece of land aggregated to produce a national figure. Separate methods would be required to deliver a second set of independent verification data. Such an undertaking at the national level would be prohibitively expensive. At its least stringent, verifiability would entail the reporting of areas under a given practice (without geo-referencing) and the use of default values for a carbon stock change for each practice, to infer a change for all areas under that practice. A definition of verifiability between these extremes would allow simple methods, such as those derived from IPCC default values for CO2 fluxes from soil, to be used for estimating changes in soil carbon. These may enable low-level verifiability to be achieved by most parties by the beginning of the first commitment period (2008-2012).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-270
Number of pages6
JournalSoil Use & Management
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • verification
  • Kyoto Protocol Article 3.4
  • soil organic carbon
  • carbon mitigation
  • carbon sequestration
  • soil carbon flux


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