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Keywords:

  • Soil organic carbon;
  • land use change;
  • soil type;
  • spatial scale;
  • Belgium

Abstract

This paper explores the influence of spatial scale on modelled projections of soil organic carbon (SOC) content. The effect of land use change (LUC) on future SOC stocks was estimated using the Rothamsted Carbon model for a small area of southern Belgium. The study assumed no management change and used a single climate change scenario. Three model experiments were used to identify how data scale affects predicted SOC stocks: (i) using European LUC datasets at a resolution of 10′ and assuming equal distribution of change within the study area, (ii) using more accurate regional data aggregated to the 10’ resolution, and (iii) using the regional data at a spatial resolution of 250 m. The results show that using coarse resolution (10′) data is inappropriate when modelling SOC changes in the study area as only the methods using precise data predict a change in SOC stocks similar to those reported in the literature. This is largely because of differences in model parameterisation. However, precisely locating LUC does not significantly affect the results. The model, using either pan-European or region-specific precise data predicts an average SOC increase of 1 t C ha−1 (1990–2050), mainly resulting from afforestation of 13% of agricultural land.