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Global Soil Organic Carbon (GSOC) Map

©FAO/Jon Spaull


National soil carbon mapping around the globe

Recently, the Global Soil Partnership, its Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) launched a global endeavor to develop a Global Soil Organic Carbon map (GSOCMap) by the end of 2017, in support of the Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 15.3.1. The quality of soil carbon information at global level is still limited because much existing national information has not yet been shared. A precise and reliable global view on soil organic carbon (SOC) is needed under different UN conventions, such as the UN Convention on Climate Change and Desertification (UNCCD), but especially as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). At national level, such data can be used as reference soil carbon stocks, with the aim to refine national greenhouse gas inventories, and to assess the sensitivity of soils to degradation and climate change.

The global soil carbon map will consist of national SOC maps, developed as 1 km soil grids, covering a depth of 0-30 cm. A generic GSOC mapping guideline has been developed, which provides definitions and methodological options. The formulae to calculate national soil carbon stocks follow the good practice guidance by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2006). Digital soil mapping is recommended for the spatial mapping of soil properties (see Pillar 4 Implementation Plan); This includes the national SOC maps. 

Digital soil mapping Training for the Eurasian Soil Partnership, Almaty, Kazakhstan, from 31 October to 4 November 2016 ©FAO/Liesl Wiese

GSOC mapping Guideline

The GSOC mapping guideline contains definitions which are intended to ensure that national maps become comparable globally. GSOC map is the first global soil property map, produced among a series of other soil properties according to GSP Pillar 4, which will follow in the mid-term future.

In order to develop technical support, a cookbook for soil carbon mapping is currently being produced. Once finalized, it will be distributed through this web site, and will be used for workshops and e-learning.

Digitalization of satellite image ©FAO/Jon Spaull

Grids and GIS data

In order to support  national SOC mapping, empty 1x1 kilometer grids and ancillary GIS data were prepared by ISRIC World Soil Information. The grids and data are available per country at ftp://ftp.isric.org (User: gsp / Password: gspisric). By clicking on the relevant country, the national 1x1 kilometer grids are available in the “mask” directory.

Contact point: Bas Kempen

For more information: ISRIC capacity building

GSOC mapping programme

The global soil carbon mapping programme was initiated during the preparations of the second meeting of the International Network of Soil Information Institutions (INSII), 24 and 24 December 2016, and discussed there in detail. In front of that meeting, a special technical session about soil carbon mapping was held 23 November 2016. During this session, the mapping specifications and the detailed methodologies were discussed, and examples of national SOC maps presented. Since these meetings, GSP partners have shared details about their mapping approaches and the national contact partners. An intermediate progress assessment of GSOCmap was presented during GSOC17 (link to the presentation). Developing the GSOCmap is a challenge which will require intensive collaboration among soil information institutions globally. Besides guideline and cookbook, various specific training events support GSP partners to engage in the GSOCmap programme.

E-learning materials on DSM (soon available) 

Regional Workshops

The aim of this capacity development program is to introduce recent concepts and techniques of DSM to soil scientists/staff who work at national soil science institutes in soil mapping related activities. This should reflect on developing and updating national and regional soil information.

In order to support national capacities, a first workshop on soil carbon mapping was organized for the Near East, Norther African and Eurasian Regional Soil Partnership.

By the end of the trainings, participants became able to compile and harmonize legacy data and other input data for DSM applications, implementing DSM, and develop accurate digital soil maps for updating their national soil information systems. 

For the Asian Soil Partnership, a workshop is planned for April 2017. Other workshops are foreseen in other regional soil partnership.


Digital Soil Mapping Training with focus on soil Carbon Modelling, Rabat, Morocco from 10 to 14 October 2016 ©FAO/Daniel Dale