Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 26, Number 1, January-March 2006
Page(s) 9 - 19
Published online 24 January 2006
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 26 (2006) 9-19
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2005054

Re-thinking the conservation of carbon, water and soil: a different perspective

Thomas Francis Shaxson

Greensbridge, Winterborne Kingston, Dorset DT11 9BJ, England

(Accepted 21 January 2005; published online 24 January 2006)

Abstract - Sustaining soil productivity requires continuing actions of soil organisms on organic materials for optimizing of soil porosity and of movements of roots, water and gases in the root-zone. Soil is more quickly formed and self-renewed from the top downwards than only by slow additions from the bottom upwards. Loss of porosity diminishes soil's infiltration capacity and water-holding potential. Factors that provide insufficient organic substrates for soil organisms and that unduly accelerate oxidation of soil organic matter hinder the self-recuperation of soil and facilitate 'Stage-1' loss of carbon from within soil aggregates. They predispose the soil to lose rapidly even more carbon, in particulate form, through 'Stage-2' losses during consequent processes of runoff and erosion. Forms of land use and management are advocated that favor the functioning of soil-inhabiting organisms, including plants, such that carbon's capture in photosynthesis is increased, its usefulness in the soil as a rooting medium is prolonged, and its subsequent immobilization in the process of sequestration ameliorates the rate of increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the global atmosphere.

Key words: carbon sequestration / soil-organisms / porosity / self-recuperation / sustainability

Corresponding author: Thomas Francis Shaxson

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2006