On fertilizer-induced soil carbon sequestration in China's croplands


William H. Schlesinger, e-mail: schlesingerw@ecostudies.org


Applications of fertilizer, often thought to enhance carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, are of no value to the mitigation of climate change if the carbon dioxide released during the production and distribution of nitrogen fertilizer exceeds the incremental carbon storage in soils from its use. Nitrogen fertilizer is also a source of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. The recent analysis of carbon sequestration in cropland soils of China does not apply these ‘discounts’ to the global warming mitigation expected from greater use of fertilizer; doing so would likely eliminate all the climate benefits of the postulated enhanced carbon sequestration.