FAO publishes its first Global Assessment of Soil Carbon in Grasslands

FAO publishes its first Global Assessment of Soil Carbon in Grasslands

Recently the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has published its first global assessment of soil carbon in grasslands.

This assessment measured soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks in semi-natural and managed grasslands.

It is funded by the FAO LEAP Partnership. It is a multi-stakeholder initiative to improve the environmental sustainability of the livestock sector.

SOC is the carbon stored within the soil. This can be measured. It helps in improving the biological, chemical and physical properties, water-holding capacity and structural stability of the soil.

SOC helps reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. Thus it is a cost-effective nature-based solution to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Key findings-

  • About 20 percent of the world’s SOC is stored in grasslands. However, human activities such as excessive livestock grazing, agricultural practices are causing damage to this stock.
  • Most of the world’s grasslands have a positive carbon balance. It means that the land is stable or orderly.
  • However, negative carbon balances have been found in East Asia, Central and South America, and African countries south of the equator.
  • SOC is not included in national climate plans.

Key reasons

  • Lack of incentives to farmers to improve farm management practices;
  • Difficulty in accurately monitoring SOC stocks etc.

Recommendations made by FAO:

  • There is a need to improve the accuracy of geo-statistical methods and data related to SOC,
  • Loss of grasslands should be stopped by encouraging plant growth,
  • Carbon capturing in the soil should be promoted, and carbon should be conserved in highly organic soils.


  • Grasslands are generally open and continuous, large flat areas of grass. Grasslands are found on all continents except Antarctica.
  • There are two main types of grasslands: tropical and temperate.

Major grasslands:

  • Prairie – North America,
  • Pampas- South America,
  • Weld- South Africa,
  • Steppe – Central Eurasia and Downs – Australia.

Source – FAO

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