Understanding scale and processes affecting greenhouse gas emissions from different soils and different soil practices is important to get a sense of the importance of soil. Soils, like the oceans and the atmosphere are fundamentally important in relation to the planetary cycling of carbon and nitrogen, and therefore the release and uptake of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
The continual flux of carbon, methane and nitrogen and the different forms that these elements exist in underpins the dynamics of climate change. Understanding how the management of the soils that we farm fits in with these cycles enables us to make informed choices about the effect of our farming systems on our soils and the effect those practices can have on GHG emissions from our farm. Since both storage and emission capacities may be large, precise quantifications are needed to obtain reliable global budgets that are necessary for land-use management (agriculture, forestry), global change and for climate research.
It is helpful to have a basic understanding of both the carbon and the nitrogen cycles to get a grasp of what’s going on in the soil.