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An interdisciplinary approach to mapping soil carbon

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date05/2016
Number of pages262
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • NERC
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


At the global scale, soils are the primary terrestrial reservoir of carbon and therefore have a major influence on the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Soil organic carbon stocks are estimated to have decreased by an average of fifty two percent in temperate regions since 1850. Land use change and management practices are the primary drivers of this decrease. Temperate upland regions have been identified as important for climate regulation, both in terms of current stocks of soil carbon and future sequestration potential. Therefore, appropriate on-farm management of soil carbon stocks in these regions has the potential to contribute to climate change mitigation goals.

This thesis is a contribution to ongoing efforts to improve on–farm soil carbon management. It does so through the development of mapping practices that incorporate both ecological and social data. The ecological aspect of the research identified a role for existing farm survey data in accurately predicting soil carbon distribution without the need for time and labour-intensive field work. The engagement with social science methods acknowledges a societal bias towards scientific ways of representing soil carbon and the marginalisation of alternative, often experiential, knowledge. The research demonstrated a way for different knowledges to be incorporated into soil carbon mapping practices and identified a role for under-utilised scientific and non-scientific knowledge of soil carbon for improving spatially-explicit management plans.

The mapping methods were developed around three case study farms in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria. This region is an upland landscape which has been identified as an important space for carbon management in the UK.

The research offers a distinct and timely approach to assessing the potential of interdisciplinary mapping to improve the management of soil carbon at the farm scale and has wider implications for the management of ecological systems.