Sanderman, J., Hengl, T., Fiske, G., 2017.
Calculating soil carbon to combat climate change.
Soil is glorious stuff. We grow food in it. Trees root themselves in it. Pigs snuffle truffles out of it. Soil is also an amazing storer of carbon. Globally, soils hold at least two trillion tonnes of organic carbon; around three times as much as the atmosphere. With so much carbon in the soil, the way it is used and managed has a direct effect on climate change.
Soils Revealed is a platform that visualises how soil organic carbon stocks have changed globally, and how they might change in the future. We worked with The Nature Conservancy, Cornell University, Woodwell Climate Research Center, and ISRIC – World Soil Information to build this beautiful platform that explores different estimations for past and future scenarios, to help us understand how different farming and restoration methods would impact soil carbon with positive results for climate change.
Due to agriculture, the world’s soils have lost 116 billion tons of organic carbon or roughly a fourth of all carbon emitted by humans since the Industrial Revolution. This means more carbon in the atmosphere, less productive soil for crops to grow in, and reduced ability for soil to retain water.
There’s plenty to explore on Soils Revealed including historical, recent and future predictions of soil organic carbon stock under different management methods. A preview feature makes it easy to see what each data layer looks like before committing it to the map, and histograms and time series visualise the change across space and time.
Soils Revealed consists of a front-end, built with React and the framework Next.js, and a Node.js back-end, which performs data calculations and transformations for the front-end. Both connect to other applications and external sources such as an on-the-fly analysis module built in Python, a CARTO instance which delivers precalculated analysis data, Google Earth Engine which provides the soils map layers, and the RW API and Mapbox which power the other contextual layers and base maps. All of that behind a thin cache layer, Varnish, which ensures fast response.
Measuring change over time.
The Woodwell Climate Research Center used machine learning to calculate how much carbon was in the soil before humans started cultivating plants and animals.
Due to agriculture, the world’s soils have lost 116 billion tons of organic carbon since agriculture began. ISRIC - World Soil Information produced the recent loss maps.
Woodwell and Cornell used machine learning to predict where soil organic carbon could be gained over time using alternative management methods.
The science behind the platform.
Heuvelink et al., 2020.
Bossio, D.A. et al, 2020.
ReFED Insights Engine.