By Vinayak Shedekar, PhD, Soil Research Associate
The 2017 Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon (GSOC17) organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, was held in Rome, Italy March 21-23. Vinayak Shedekar, OSU South Centers Research Associate was invited to attend the prestigious conference and present the Soil, Water and Bioenergy program’s research work related to on-farm assessment, prediction and management of soil organic carbon. Participants included representatives from FAO member states, UNCCD country Parties, organizing institutions, relevant panels, presenters whose abstracts were accepted, and scientists working in related fields. Over 450 participants from 111 countries were actively involved in both presenting results of studies demonstrating the potential and challenges of managing soil organic carbon (SOC) in different types of soil – such as peatland, black soils and permafrost soils, grasslands and livestock production systems and dryland soils - as well as discussing and developing key messages.
The first meter of soil across the globe holds an estimated 1,417 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon – almost double the amount in our atmosphere and dozens of times the levels of man-made emissions each year. At greater depths, soil holds three times as much carbon as in the atmosphere. The overall aim of the symposium was to review the role and potential of soils and SOC in the context of climate change and sustainable development and build scientific evidence that could be adopted in policy making at national and international levels through the IPCC, UNFCCC, and UNCCD frameworks. The symposium had three main themes:
1. Measuring, mapping, monitoring and reporting SOC
2. Maintaining and/or increasing SOC stocks (fostering SOC sequestration) for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and Land Degradation Neutrality
3. Managing SOC in soils with a) high SOC - peatlands, permafrost, and black soils b) grasslands, and livestock production systems and c) in dryland soils
As part of Theme 2, Vinayak presented a novel approach that integrates field-based techniques of SOC assessment, and prediction tools based on long-term experiments for better decision making and assessing the impacts of SOC management on farm economics and soil health at farm scales. Dr. Rattan Lal, Director of the OSU’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center was one of the keynote speakers during the second plenary session of the symposium, and discussed the “state-of-the-science of soil organic carbon sequestration.” He called for a global effort to encourage soil stewardship that is based on sound management practices and mechanisms to account for ecosystem services of soil organic carbon. Mr. José Graziano Da Silva, Director-General of FAO, H.E. Jioji Konousi Konrote, President of the Republic of Fiji, Ms. Elena Manaenkova, Deputy-Secretary General World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Mr. Stéphane Le Foll, French Minister for Agriculture, were among other notable speakers.
Vinayak contributed significantly to the scientific and policy discussions during the symposium – stressing the need to consider the practicality of on-farm implementation of global SOC sequestration policies, and the need for mechanisms to train farmers, educators and policy makers. He and Dr. Rafiq Islam have been invited to contribute a research article to the symposium outcome – a scientific document (Proceedings of the Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon 2017) highlighting the role of soils and SOC management in meeting the climate change and sustainable development goals of different nations, as well as reporting to UNFCCC, UNCCD. A complete webcast of the symposium is available at the GSOC17 website.
Soil Organic Carbon: the hidden potential
The publication was launched at the Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon (GSOC).
It provides an overview to decision-makers and practitioners of the main scientific facts and information regarding the current knowledge and knowledge gaps on Soil Organic Carbon. It highlights how better information and good practices may be implemented to support ending hunger, adapting to and mitigating climate change and achieving overall sustainable development.