Soils are one of the world’s biggest stores of carbon. The level of carbon storage depends on several factors, including the type of organic matter, climatic conditions and land management practices, both past and present. This report explores how the level of storage over time could be measured, and how this could help improve land management practices through a payment system.

Key points
  • Agricultural soils (across pasture and arable) account for more than 10% of Scotland’s estimated soil carbon. Changes in land management practices affect the balance between soil carbon accumulation and loss, with conversion from grassland to cropland as the largest single change that releases soil carbon on Scottish agricultural land.
  • Evidence suggests there is large potential for increasing carbon storage in agricultural soils through changes in management practices. Any increase in carbon in the soil is likely to have a positive impact on soil quality, whilst the climate change mitigation benefit may be modest but positive in the longer term.
  • Mechanisms for support through payments exist, but they are largely focused on wider benefits such as preventing soil erosion and there are none that currently specifically enable  soil carbon sequestration.