Improving the auditability of soil carbon


Soil systems are recognised as a significant terrestrial sink of carbon. The reliable assessment and monitoring of soil carbon stocks is of key importance for soil conservation and in mitigation strategies for increased atmospheric carbon. However currently there is no reliable and efficient scheme for monitoring and accounting for soil carbon storage. This proposal will develop a methodology for auditing the soil carbon at a farm scale using a combination of spatial probability sampling and improved measurement techniques. This will enable Australian farmers to be involved in the carbon economy and will expedite sustainable soil management practices.


Professor Alex McBratney

Research Location

Sydney Institute of Agriculture - Australian Technology Park

Program Type



One of the biggest problems of assigning carbon credits in soil is the expense of verification as we are dealing with the inherent variability of soil in the landscape. The amount of carbon stored in the soil per unit of land area is highly variable and depends on annual inputs, soil type and the degradation rate of the soil C. Current methods for measuring, mapping, and quantifying soil carbon within an area are expensive and inefficient. Furthermore, it is still not established how we can monitor changes in soil carbon efficiently and effectively with sufficient statistical confidence. A scheme that recognizes the whole farm as a system that can store carbon is crucial to the agricultural industry, particularly in the carbon economy.
The primary aim of this project is to develop methods for vastly improving the auditability of soil carbon, by specifically:

  • Designing a protocol for auditing soil C sequestration.
  • Designing an effective sampling system for monitoring the content and changes of C in the soil within farms.
  • Investigating various methods for cost-effective analysis of soil C content, and possibly devising a new carbon measurement method.

Additional Information

The project will involve considerable field and laboratory work. We are seeking a PhD candidate to work on this project – competitive scholarships are available from the Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources.. The student will acquire valuable knowledge and skills in the areas of carbon auditing, sampling design, and monitoring which is currently a shortage in Australia. The PhD student will also be expected to further develop skills in laboratory analysis of soil carbon, modern statistical and spatial data analysis and scientific publication. Lal R (2004) Soil carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change. Geoderma 123,1-22. Minasny B, McBratney AB, Mendonça-Santos ML, Odeh IOA., Guyon B (2006) Prediction and digital mapping of soil carbon storage in the Lower Namoi Valley. Australian Journal of Soil Research 44, 233-244.

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Soil carbon, carbon accounting, sustainability, soil, soil science, carbon trading, emissions trading, Climate Change

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 577

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