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Soil Organic Carbon

Soil organic carbon (SOC) is the carbon that remains in the soil after partial decomposition of any material produced by living organisms. It constitutes a key element of the global carbon cycle through atmosphere, vegetation, soil, rivers and the ocean. It is a crucial contributor to food production, mitigation and adaption to climate change. Soils represent the largest terrestrial organic carbon reservoir. Depending on local geology, climatic conditions and land use and management (amongst other environmental factors), soils hold different amounts of SOC. This map shows the amount of carbon stored in the soil (from 0 to 30 cm depth), expressed in Mg (megagrams or tonnes) per km2.

FAO and ITPS. (2018). Global Soil Organic Carbon Map (GSOC map) Version 1.2.0. Leaflet:… Technical Report:


The Global Soil Organic Carbon (GSOC) map only provides data on carbon stocks up to a depth of 30 cm. In parts of the world, however, organic soils can be up to 11 m deep, and they therefore contain more organic carbon than what is indicated by the GSOC map. The global soil carbon map (GSOC) is based on national SOC maps and national soil sampling schemes, which may differ in their sampling period, intensity and spatial distribution. In addition, even when all countries have followed a common methodological approach to derive the national SOC maps, there might be national specifies and differences in the details of the approaches used to produce the 1 km resolution maps from the soil sampling data. SOC mapping involves making predictions or extrapolations at locations where no soil measurements were taken. This inevitably leads to some prediction errors because soil spatial variation is the result of a complex set of factors and processes that cannot be modelled perfectly at a national or global level.

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