Baselining

Measuring soil carbon stock is fundamental to any soil carbon trading project.  While Carbon Link’s core business is aggregation and supporting soil carbon project we quickly realised that there was no one in the market offering high quality cost effective soil carbon measurement services.  What was available could be described as a cottage industry and mostly linked to research and government organisations.

To fill this gap Carbon Link set out to find and develop a soil carbon measurement system that could meet the demands of the soil carbon trading market.  The system needs to be fast, able to cover vast areas of land and be cost effective given the expected carbon prices.  After many years of work we are proud to report that Carbon Link has built a world leading soil carbon measurement system.  It is faster, cheaper and provides vastly more information than any other commercially available system.  It represents a paradigm shift in the way soil carbon is measured.  Key features included.

  • Unconstrained soil depth. Most other measurement system limit sampling to 300mm.  However, there is often more soil carbon below 300mm than above and this carbon can be expected to be very stable. Furthermore, well managed land is expected to promote deeper soil carbon.
  • Detailed soil mapping.  Many current sampling methods can only estimate the total amount of soil carbon and don’t provide any information about how soil carbon varies across paddocks and the property as a whole.  Without this information it is hard to identify the sweet spots or relationships between, management practice and soil carbon levels.
  • More detailed information.  Carbon Link employs a range of new technologies to measure and interpret soil carbon tests.  These are not only faster but provide greater insight into the soil carbon and how it varies across the target area.
  • Stratification. Soil variation is the enemy of accurate measurement of soil carbon. Accurately assessing soil variation to a depth of 1 to 2m, greatly improves the accuracy of the soil carbon measurement. The more accurate the measurement, the more carbon is saleable due to lower variation in the estimated carbon yield..

Baselining is the first critical step in any soil carbon project.  Baselining involves measuring soil carbon stocks on the target land area.  The initial carbon stocks are used to calculate any future soil carbon sequestration so the sooner you baseline the more soil carbon you potentially have to trade.

Baselining involves 5 steps:

  1. Accurately map the area to be measured and select the Carbon Estimation Areas (CEA).  A CEA is an area of land that will be used as part of a sequestration project.  A property may have several CEA’s and not all of a property needs to be covered.
  2. Stratify the area.  This means breaking the CEA’s into a number smaller areas to direct the physical sampling and support the statistical estimation of carbon stocks.  There are a number of ways of doing this depending on the carbon estimation methods used.  In order to complete the stratification a range of resources and approaches can be use depending on the size of the area and the level of detail including scanning using EM, Gamma and IR sensors coupled with high accuracy GNSS as well as satellite and aerial imagery.  These proximal sensors can provide information on the distribution of carbon beyond what can be found from simple point samples.  This helps in the development of detailed carbon maps.
  3. Physical sampling involves taking samples of soil at locations determined by the sampling plan.
  4. Sample analysis involves physical and chemical analysis of soil samples to determine the carbon content.
  5. Carbon stock estimation involves statistical and other analysis to estimate the carbon stocks in the CEA and how it varies across the target area.