Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership

Climate

Climate factors, including temperature, precipitation, and evaporation, are key components in determining the rate at which soil carbon can be sequestered in soils.1,2

Temperature is a key factor. The continental climate and cold winters of the PCOR Partnership region are excellent for preserving soil organic carbon (SOC). This is because the cooler temperatures in the winter reduce microbial activity and less carbon is decomposed.3 Research supports this observation in natural ecosystems where organic carbon preservation is greater in cooler climates.2 When conservation management practices are employed, the potential rate of SOC in cool and humid climates (400-800 kg/ha/year) is significantly higher over warm and dry (200-400 kg/ha/year) climatic conditions.2

Enhanced precipitation often provides the needed moisture to maintain an increase in plant growth, and this adds to the production of soil organic matter.3 Generally, with an increase in rainfall, there is an increase in carbon accumulation.

Temperature is less important under conditions where the soil is saturated with water (for example in wetlands). Under water-saturated conditions, the lack of oxygen over a long duration of time prevents complete microbial decay of biomass even over a wide temperature range.

References:
  1. Paustian, K.H., and Cole, C.V., 1998, CO2 mitigation by agriculture - an overview: Climatic Change,
    v. 40, p. 135-162.
  2. Lal, R., 2002, Soil carbon dynamics in cropland and rangeland: Environmental Pollution, v. 116,
    p. 353-362. Elsevier Science Ltd.
  3. Collins, M.E., and Kuehl, R.J., 2001, Organic matter accumulation and organic soils in wetland soils genesis, hydrology, landscapes, and classification: Lewis Publishers, p. 1-417.