UK land use and soil carbon sequestration

N. J. Ostle, P. E. Levy, C.D. Evans, P. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

186 Citations (Scopus)


This review explores the role of land use and land use change as a determinant of the soil's ability to sequester and store carbon in the UK. Over 95 percent of the UK land carbon stock is located in soils which are subjected to a range of land uses and global changes. Land use change can result in rapid soil loss of carbon from peatlands, grasslands, plantation forest and native woodland. Soil carbon accumulates more slowly (decadal) but gains can be made when croplands are converted to grasslands, plantation forest of native woodland. The need for land for food production and renewable forms of energy could have considerable influence on UK soil carbon storage in the future. There is a need to recognise the risk of soil carbon losses occuring when land use change to increase carbon storage is offset by compensatory land use conversions elsewhere that result in net carbon release. The protection of peatland and other organic soil carbon stocks, and the management of cropland, grassland and forest soils to increase carbon sequestration, will be crucial to the maintenance of the UK carbon balance. It will be necessary to develop policy to balance trade-offs between soil carbon gains with other land use priorities. These include the sustainable production of food, bio-energy and fibre crops and livestock. water quality and hydrology, greenhouse gas emission control and waste management, all of which are underpinned by the soil. (C) 2009 Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S274-S283
Number of pages10
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue numberSupplement 1
Early online date8 Sept 2009
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • soil carbon
  • climate change
  • greenhouse gases
  • CO2
  • SOM
  • renewable energy
  • climate-change
  • organic-carbon
  • forest management
  • nitrogen limitation
  • sequestering carbon
  • upland grassland
  • heathland soils
  • atmospheric CO2
  • meta analysis
  • fluxes


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