Soil Sampling Protocol to Certify the Changes of Organic Carbon Stock in Mineral Soils of European Union

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The Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC, 1998) considers soils as an essential component to mitigate the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Two additional reports: (1) Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) (IPCC, 2000) and (2) Good Practice Guidance for LULUCF (IPCC, 2003) identify soil organic carbon (SOC) monitoring to be an obligatory tool when implementing Articles 3.3 (afforestation, reforestation and deforestation since 1990), and Article 3.4 (forest management, cropland management, grazing land management, revegetation) of the Protocol. However, the general norms provided by these documents do focus on the countrywide SOC accounting and reporting and are insufficient for application in the LULUCF plot exclusively, e.g., agricultural field, pasture or forest. These norms have to be supplemented by practical details that make them operational at the LULUCF plot level. The lack of a reliable method on practical soil sampling to certify the changes of organic carbon stock in soils might be a serious obstacle for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol in EU.

However, there is an urgent need to set out a common soil sampling procedure beyond the Kyoto Protocol. Many soil functions are driven by SOC, e.g, fertility, buffering capacity, adsorption and absorption of chemicals, filtering storing and maintaining water quality, regulation of atmospheric gas composition, etc. Any decline in SOC diminishes soil quality and has been identified as a serious environment threat by European Environment Agency (Huber et al., 2001) and the Soil Communication (EC, 2002). Thus this methodology attempts to contribute to establishing an important common criterion of soil quality in EU, namely SOC.

Soil forms a continuum in space and changes in time. Soil extends in depth and is invisible from the surface. Information on soil can be obtained by observation of a section or profile from which soil samples can be taken. Samples can be collected in different ways and the characteristics of soil resulted from various sampling procedures are different. Consequently, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has set up a standard (ISO, 2002) that describes principle rules for designing soil-sampling strategies and the techniques for collecting the samples.

The objective of this report is to design a protocol for soil sampling at the LULUCF plot, which is selected field, pasture or forest plot. The results of the analysis should allow national agents to certify changes in organic carbon stock in soils that can be attributed to LULUCF activities. It includes the following procedures:

- location of sites from which samples should be taken;
- identification of sampling quantity and composition;
- methods of the sample collection;
- algorithms for data acquisition and accuracy control.

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