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Kick-off meeting in Italy

The kick-off event of the ORCaSa project has been hosted in the wonderful settings of JRC (Joint Research Centre) in Ispra (Italy), from 26 to 28 October. The Horizon Europe project, short for Operationalising the International Research Cooperation on Soil Carbon, aims to bring together all stakeholders working on soil carbon capture and storage techniques at an international level.

Over the next three years, six European and five international partners will work together to establish the first International Research Consortium (IRC) on soil carbon, expected next autumn. The idea to establish an IRC on soil carbon emerged during the CIRCASA project (2017-2021) together with more than 100 stakeholders and 500 scientists from around the world. The overall objective is to share as much knowledge as possible on the subject while fostering possible synergies and initiatives.

Recruitment of members and funders will also be supported by the project’s international partners, who will promote global outreach at the regional level. In addition, the project will enable the development of KP4SoilCarbon, an online platform where all current knowledge on soil carbon will be collected and made accessible.

Considering the diversity of soils

While CIRCASA focused on agricultural soils, the ORCaSa project goes a step further and also considers other types of soils, including forests, pastures, public spaces in urban areas, etc.

“Thanks to ORCaSa we aim to enlarge an initial strategic research and innovation agenda to all types of soils and implement it in order to preserve high carbon stocks and boost carbon storage. This will contribute mitigating climate change”, explained Suzanne Reynders, ORCaSa coordinator.

Why capturing or storing carbon?

Organic carbon is captured by plants and stored in soil, helping plants to grow. Like the ocean, soil acts as a huge carbon sink capable of absorbing large amounts of greenhouse gases. This mechanism helps to mitigate carbon emissions into the atmosphere and regulate the climate.

Today, this balance no longer exists due to increasing carbon emissions from human activities (transport, industry, agriculture, etc.). The development of innovative techniques and solutions to capture and store carbon in soils is therefore crucial. Beyond the climate issue, the conservation of biodiversity and food security are also at stake, making the ORCaSa project a direct response to the European Green Deal.

Building stocks in both cities and rural areas

The lowest carbon stocks are found in built-up and impermeable areas, while the largest are found in forests and wetlands such as marshes and swamps. Degraded soils can be found in cities, but also in rural areas. In addition to the increasing artificiality of soils, methane and nitrogenous fertilisers used in the agricultural sector reduce carbon stocks in soils.

Nevertheless, there are solutions to promote carbon storage. The promotion of agroforestry, the use of high-residue cover crops and protection of wetlands are exemplary measures to promote better carbon uptake. With the inexorable progress of the built environment, thoughtful urban planning and more green spaces that ultimately reduce the dreaded “urban heat islands” in summer must become the norm.