The paper reviews research showing that soils contain more carbon than atmosphere and all plant life combined, noting that increasing carbon storage in soils is relatively simple compared to approaches to use geoengineering to avert climate change.
The paper describes the key findings of the 2015 FAO Status of the World's Soil Resources Report (SWSR) launched in December 2015, including: conversion of forests, pastures and grasslands can lead to a loss of 25 to 35% of SOC; soil sealing can greatly reduce SOC; and an enduring increase in SOC content in soils requires a proportional increase in nitrogen, phosphorous and several other nutrients. The SWSR report also finds that most of the world's soils are in poor or fair condition and deteriorating.
The paper concludes that appropriate land use systems have the potential to sequester significant amounts of carbon while also decreasing soil erosion, maintaining soil organic matter, augmenting nitrogen buildup, and promoting efficient nutrient cycling. The paper notes, however that the effect of land use and soil management on different soil types under varying local climates needs to be better understood.