PhD defence invitation – Soil organic carbon modelling

PhD candidate Elisa Bruni from the Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory (LSCE) in France is pleased to invite you to her doctoral thesis defence entitled “Soil organic carbon modelling: estimating carbon input changes required to reach policy objectives aimed at increasing soil organic carbon stocks”.

The defence will take place on Monday 28 March 2022 at 2:00 p.m. in Amphi 7 of AgroParisTech (Paris-Maine), located at 19 Avenue du Maine, 75015 Paris. For those who prefer to attend remotely, you can join the videoconference through the following link (Meeting ID: 930 0252 2076 / Password: 954715). The presentation will be held in English.


The thesis jury board is composed of the following experts:

  • Axel DON, Senior Lecturer, Thünen Institute (Germany) – Rapporteur & Examiner
  • Isabelle BASILE, Research Director, INRAE Centre PACA (France) – Rapporteur & Examiner
  • Sébastien Barot, Director of Research, IRD (France) – Examiner
  • Patricia Garnier, Director of Research, INRAE (France) – Examiner
  • Emanuele Lugato, Project manager, Joint Research Centre (Europe) – Examiner
  • Stefano Manzoni, Senior Lecturer, Stockholm University (Sweden) – Examiner
  • Claire Chenu, Director of Research, INRAE (France) – Thesis director
  • Bertrand Guenet, Research Fellow, INRAE (France) – Examiner
  • Denis Angers, Honorary Director of Research, Université de Laval (Canada) – Invited
  • Gaby Deckmyn, Senior Scientist, University of Antwerp (Belgium) – Invited

Thesis abstract

To partially compensate for CO2 emissions, the 4 per 1000 initiative proposed an annual 4‰ soil organic carbon (SOC) stock increase. Yet, the feasibility of such an ambitious target is still under debate. The most efficient way to increase the SOC stocks is to increase the C input to the soil. The objective of this thesis was to estimate the C input required to yearly increase the SOC stocks by 4‰ in European croplands.

To solve this problem, we built an inverse modelling approach and tested it on a SOC model, by estimating the C input required to reach the 4‰ objective at multiple long-term agricultural experiments in Europe. Then, we applied this approach to a multimodel ensemble, to assess the uncertainties of the estimations according to different representations of the SOC dynamics. As a first attempt to provide insights for policymakers on the feasibility of a 4‰ target in Europe, we applied a multi-model ensemble over the whole European cropland area, and we generated maps of the required C input under two scenarios of climate change. To improve the simulation of SOC stocks at the European scale, we tested a new, statistically derived, parametrization technique.

Our study demonstrates that there are substantial uncertainties around the C input required to reach a 4‰ target. However, a general pattern emerges at the European cropland scale, where the 4‰ target seems feasible under future scenarios of climate change, only assuming drastic increases of C input to the soil.

HoliSoils in a nutshell

Soils are crucial for the global climate and human wellbeing, providing clear benefits for people and the planet in their sustainable management. Knowledge gaps on forest soil processes and the lack of harmonised soil monitoring limits our ability to maintain soil-related ecosystem services and achieve climate policy objectives.

A better understanding of soil processes can support decision making in meeting climate and sustainability goals. This requires harmonised monitoring methods, models, tools and data to develop and inform policies and strategies to meet the SDGs of the UN 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement, as well as the European Green Deal.

Find out how HoliSoils meets this challenge! The HoliSoils brochure is available now for an excellent overview on this exciting project focussing on holistic management practices, modelling and monitoring for European forest soils.

Download the HoliSoils brochure (PDF)

HoliSoils website shines spotlight on forest soils

The website is a focal point for the project and its results towards an improved, integrated, and harmonised monitoring and modelling framework for forest soils across Europe.

A new website for the Horizon 2020 project, HoliSoils (Holistic management practices, modelling and monitoring for European forest soils), is now online.

An entry point for exploring the project’s activities, resources and results, the website serves as a gateway to the tools, datamodels and maps which are created, collated and updated over the course of this 4.5 year project. HoliSoils incorporates novel methodologies and expert knowledge on analytical techniques, data sharing, soil properties and biodiversity, and model development. It is developing tools for soil monitoring, refining greenhouse gas (GHG) assessment of the land use, land-use change & forestry (LULUCF) sector, enhancing efficiency of GHG mitigation actions, and improving numerical forecasting of soil-based mitigation, adaptation, and ecosystem services.

HoliSoils has a wide spread of test sites to investigate the effects of soil and forest management on soils processes, resilience, and climate change mitigation potential. It will also provide training and capacity building to various stakeholder groups on the results obtained.

The website also provides an insight into the benefits provided by soils for people and the planet. Knowledge gaps on forest soil processes and the lack of harmonised soil monitoring limits our ability to maintain soil-related ecosystem services and achieve climate policy objectives. A better understanding of soil processes will support decision making in meeting climate and sustainability goals.

The project employs a collaborative, multi-actor approach, with a multidisciplinary consortium and diverse stakeholders who are actively engaged in ensuring that HoliSoils results can be effective and appropriate for the people who need and use them. Stay tuned to the HoliSoils website for all project progress on the work together for forest soils.

About HoliSoils

Holistic management practices, modelling and monitoring for European forest soils – HoliSoils – provides an improved, integrated, and harmonised monitoring and modelling framework for forest soils across Europe. The project is funded for 4.5 years through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and is coordinated by Luke, Finland.

New project focuses on management, modelling and monitoring for European forest soils

Soils are increasingly recognised to have an important role, both for human wellbeing and for the global climate. There are clear benefits for people and the planet in the sustainable transformation of land management to practices that reduce soil degradation, mitigate erosion, and maintain or restore soil organic carbon, nutrients, and soil water. From maintaining biodiversity to providing ecosystem services, good forest management practices start in the soil.

Yet there are significant knowledge gaps on forest soil processes and soil monitoring is not sufficiently harmonised, which limits the EU’s ability to maintain soil-related ecosystem services and to reach climate policy targets.

HoliSoils (Holistic management practices, modelling and monitoring for European forest soils) is a new EU H2020 project which will provide an improved, integrated, and harmonised monitoring and modelling framework for forest soils across Europe.

The 4.5-year project, which kicked off in May 2021, will identify and test soil management practices aiming to mitigate climate change and sustain provision of various ecosystem services essential for human livelihoods and wellbeing. HoliSoils incorporates novel methodologies and expert knowledge on analytical techniques, data sharing, model development, and soil properties and biodiversity. It will develop tools for soil monitoring and for greenhouse gas (GHG) assessment in the land use, land-use change & forestry (LULUCF) sector. It will also enhance efficiency of GHG mitigation actions, and improve numerical forecasting of soil-based mitigation, adaptation, and ecosystem services.

Through a collaborative, multi-actor approach, the multidisciplinary consortium brings leading expertise on soil analysis and databases, development of advanced analytical techniques, complex system modelling, digital soil mapping, soil ecology, disturbance ecology, forest and GHG inventories, social sciences, and communications. From the outset, HoliSoils will engage actively with its diverse stakeholders, including forest owners and managers, industry actors, forest extension services, a certification body, forest and soil researchers, climate policy support and greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory experts, and policymakers.

HoliSoils is coordinated by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), and is made up of a consortium of 20 project partners, 18 from across Europe with partners from South America (Uruguay) and Asia (Japan) broadening the perspective globally.

HoliSoils coordinator, Raisa Mäkipää, stated that she is “really excited about the multidisciplinary work initiated by the HoliSoils consortium. We have such wide expertise from soil scientists to mathematicians and social scientists that we can address timely and challenging global problems on sustainable soil management and mitigation of climate change.”

More information: Project Coordinator: Raisa Mäkipää, Luke; raisa.makipaa @ luke.fi
Communications: Sarah Adams, European Forest Institute; sarah.adams @ efi.int