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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Additional carbon inputs to reach a 4 per 1000 objective in Europe: feasibility and projected impacts of climate change based on Century simulations of long-term arable experiments

Bruni, Elisa; Guenet, Bertrand; Huang, Yuanyuan; Clivot, Hugues; Virto, Inigo; Farina, Roberta; Katterer, Thomas; Ciais, Philippe; Martin, Manuel; Chenu, Claire


The 4 per 1000 initiative aims to maintain and increase soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks for soil fertility, food security, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. One way to enhance SOC stocks is to increase carbon (C) inputs to the soil.In this study, we assessed the amount of organic C inputs that are necessary to reach a target of SOC stocks increase by 4 parts per thousand yr(-1) on average, for 30 years, at 14 long-term agricultural sites in Europe. We used the Century model to simulate SOC stocks and assessed the required level of additional C inputs to reach the 4 per 1000 target at these sites. Then, we analyzed how this would change under future scenarios of temperature increase. Initial stocks were simulated assuming steady state. We compared modeled C inputs to different treatments of additional C used on the experimental sites (exogenous organic matter addition and one treatment with different crop rotations). The model was calibrated to fit the control plots, i.e. conventional management without additional C inputs from exogenous organic matter or changes in crop rotations, and was able to reproduce the SOC stock dynamics.We found that, on average among the selected experimental sites, annual C inputs will have to increase by 43.15 +/- 5.05 %, which is 0.66 +/- 0.23 Mg C ha(-1) yr(-1) (mean +/- standard error), with respect to the initial C inputs in the control treatment. The simulated amount of C input required to reach the 4 %0 SOC increase was lower than or similar to the amount of C input actually used in the majority of the additional C input treatments of the long-term experiments. However, Century might be overestimating the effect of additional C inputs on SOC stocks. At the experimental sites, we found that treatments with additional C inputs were increasing by 0.25 % on average. This means that the C inputs required to reach the 4 per 1000 target might actually be much higher. Furthermore, we estimated that annual C inputs will have to increase even more due to climate warming, that is 54 % more and 120 % more for a 1 and 5 degrees C warming, respectively. We showed that modeled C inputs required to reach the target depended linearly on the initial SOC stocks, raising concern on the feasibility of the 4 per 1000 objective in soils with a higher potential contribution to C sequestration, that is soils with high SOC stocks. Our work highlights the challenge of increasing SOC stocks at a large scale and in a future with a warmer climate.

Published in

2021, Volume: 18, number: 13, pages: 3981-4004

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG13 Climate action

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Soil Science
    Environmental Sciences

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)