• climate change;
  • food security;
  • soil carbon sequestration;
  • soil carbon sink;
  • tropical soils


Research in the soil of the tropics mostly has demonstrated the decline of soil organic carbon (SOC) after conversion of primary forest to plantation and cultivated lands. This paper illustrates the dynamics of SOC on the island of Java, Indonesia, from 1930 to 2010. We used 2002 soil profile observations containing organic carbon (C) analysis in the topsoil, which were collected by the Indonesian Center for Agricultural Land Resources Research & Development from 1923 to 2007. Results show the obvious decline of SOC values from around 2% in 1930–1940 to 0.8% in 1960–1970. However, there has been an increase of SOC content since 1970, with a median level of 1.1% in the year 2000. Our analysis suggests that the human influence and agricultural practices on SOC in Java have been a stronger influence than the environmental factors. SOC for the top 10 cm has shown a net accumulation rate of 0.2–0.3 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 during the period 1990–2000. These findings give rise to optimism for increased soil C sequestration in the tropics.