Environmental Management

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 528–544

Carbon Sequestration in Dryland Ecosystems

  • Rattan Lal

DOI: 10.1007/s00267-003-9110-9

Cite this article as:
Lal, R. Environmental Management (2004) 33: 528. doi:10.1007/s00267-003-9110-9


Drylands occupy 6.15 billion hectares (Bha) or 47.2% of the world’s land area. Of this, 3.5 to 4.0 Bha (57%–65%) are either desertified or prone to desertification. Despite the low soil organic carbon (SOC) concentration, total SOC pool of soils of the drylands is 241 Pg (1 Pg = petagram = 1015 g = 1 billion metric ton) or 15.5% of the world’s total of 1550 Pg to 1-meter depth. Desertification has caused historic C loss of 20 to 30 Pg. Assuming that two-thirds of the historic loss can be resequestered, the total potential of SOC sequestration is 12 to 20 Pg C over a 50-year period. Land use and management practices to sequester SOC include afforestation with appropriate species, soil management on cropland, pasture management on grazing land, and restoration of degraded soils and ecosystems through afforestation and conversion to other restorative land uses. Tree species suitable for afforestation in dryland ecosystems include Mesquite, Acacia, Neem and others. Recommended soil management practices include application of biosolids (e.g., manure, sludge), which enhance activity of soil macrofauna (e.g., termites), use of vegetative mulches, water harvesting, and judicious irrigation systems. Recommended practices of managing grazing lands include controlled grazing at an optimal stocking rate, fire management, and growing improved species. The estimated potential of SOC sequestration is about 1 Pg C/y for the world and 50 Tg C/y for the U.S. This potential of dryland soils is relevant to both the Kyoto Protocol under UNFCCC and the U.S. Farm Bill 2002.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rattan Lal
    • 1
  1. 1.Carbon Management and Sequestration CenterThe Ohio State University, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, Ohio, 43210USA

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