• Clay illuviation provides a long-term sink for C sequestration in subsoils

      Torres-Sallan, Gemma; Schulte, Rogier P.; Lanigan, Gary; Byrne, Kenneth; Reidy, Brian; Simó, Iolanda; Six, Johan; Creamer, Rachel; Irish Soil Information System project; Teagasc; et al. (Springer Nature, 2017-04-06)
      Soil plays a key role in the global carbon (C) cycle. Most current assessments of SOC stocks and the guidelines given by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focus on the top 30 cm of soil. Our research shows that, when considering only total quantities, most of the SOC stocks are found in this top layer. However, not all forms of SOC are equally valuable as long-term stable stores of carbon: the majority of SOC is available for mineralisation and can potentially be re-emitted to the atmosphere. SOC associated with micro-aggregates and silt plus clay fractions is more stable and therefore represents a long-term carbon store. Our research shows that most of this stable carbon is located at depths below 30 cm (42% of subsoil SOC is located in microaggregates and silt and clay, compared to 16% in the topsoil), specifically in soils that are subject to clay illuviation. This has implications for land management decisions in temperate grassland regions, defining the trade-offs between primary productivity and C emissions in clay-illuviated soils, as a result of drainage. Therefore, climate smart land management should consider the balance between SOC stabilisation in topsoils for productivity versus sequestration in subsoils for climate mitigation.
    • Mapping Soils in Ireland

      Simo, Iolanda; Constanje, R.; Fealy, Reamonn; Hallett, S.; Hannam, Jacqueline; Holden, Nicholas M.; Jahns, G.; Jones, B.; Massey, P.; Mayr, T.; et al. (CRC Press, 2014)
      Harmonised soil data across Europe with a 1:250 000 geo-referenced soil database will allow for exchange of data across member states and the provide the information needed for reporting on issues re-lating to soil quality under a future Soil Framework Directive. The current status of soils data available in Eu-rope is inconsistent at best. The Irish Soil Information System (ISIS) project is currently developing a national soil map of 1:250,000 and an associated digital soil information system, providing both spatial and quantita-tive information on soil types and properties across Ireland. Both the map and the information system will be freely available to the public through a designated website.
    • Pedotransfer functions for Irish soils – estimation of bulk density (ρb) per horizon type

      Reidy, Brian; Simo, Iolanda; Sills, P.; Creamer, Rachel E.; Environmental Protection Agency (European Geosciences Union, 18/01/2016)
      Soil bulk density is a key property in defining soil characteristics. It describes the packing structure of the soil and is also essential for the measurement of soil carbon stock and nutrient assessment. In many older surveys this property was neglected and in many modern surveys this property is omitted due to cost both in laboratory and labour and in cases where the core method cannot be applied. To overcome these oversights pedotransfer functions are applied using other known soil properties to estimate bulk density. Pedotransfer functions have been derived from large international data sets across many studies, with their own inherent biases, many ignoring horizonation and depth variances. Initially pedotransfer functions from the literature were used to predict different horizon type bulk densities using local known bulk density data sets. Then the best performing of the pedotransfer functions were selected to recalibrate and then were validated again using the known data. The predicted co-efficient of determination was 0.5 or greater in 12 of the 17 horizon types studied. These new equations allowed gap filling where bulk density data were missing in part or whole soil profiles. This then allowed the development of an indicative soil bulk density map for Ireland at 0–30 and 30–50 cm horizon depths. In general the horizons with the largest known data sets had the best predictions, using the recalibrated and validated pedotransfer functions.
    • Soil carbon stocks in a Sitka spruce chronosequence following afforestation

      Reidy, Brian; Bolger, Thomas; COFORD (Society of Irish Foresters, 2013)
      Increasing concentrations ofCO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are leading to concern worldwide due to their contribution to the greenhouse effect. As the body of evidence supporting the need for change from a carbon rich economy/society becomes stronger, international mitigation agreements require high quality and precise information. Following the Kyoto Protocol and EU agreements to reduce carbon production, countries could utilise default values or comparable international data to calculate their carbon budgets. Initially, approximations were successful for generating a guide to a national carbon stock for reporting GHG inventories to the UNFCCC (Tier 1 ). However, now that the second phase of the Kyoto protocol is running until 2020, greater accuracy is essential and, where possible, nationally specific information is increasingly required (Tier 3, UNFCCC). Forestry and forest soils are seen as a key component in the carbon cycle and depending on their management, can mitigate or contribute to GHG emissions. Litter and soil organic matter (SOM) are two of the major carbon pools required for reporting under LULUCF. In this study, stocks of SOM and litter were recorded along a chronosequence of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) on wet mineral gley soil. Over a 47-year period, the rate of soil carbon sequestration was found to be 1 .83 t C ha−1 yr−1 . Soil microbial biomass was used to estimate highly active SOM. The mineral soils were also fractionated in a density separation procedure to identify light and heavy SOM pools. These estimates can now be used to model carbon budgets of this most common soil type currently under forestry in Ireland.
    • Visual drainage assessment: A standardised visual soil assessment method for use in land drainage design in Ireland

      Tuohy, Patrick; Humphreys, James; Holden, Nicholas M.; O'Loughlin, James; Reidy, Brian; Fenton, Owen (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 20/08/2016)
      The implementation of site-specific land drainage system designs is usually disregarded by landowners in favour of locally established ‘standard practice’ land drainage designs. This is due to a number of factors such as a limited understanding of soil–water interactions, lack of facilities for the measurement of soil’s physical or hydrological parameters and perceived time wastage and high costs. Hence there is a need for a site-specific drainage system design methodology that does not rely on inaccessible, time-consuming and/or expensive measurements of soil physical or hydrological properties. This requires a standardised process for deciphering the drainage characteristics of a given soil in the field. As an initial step, a new visual soil assessment method, referred to as visual drainage assessment (VDA), is presented whereby an approximation of the permeability of specific soil horizons is made using seven indicators (water seepage, pan layers, texture, porosity, consistence, stone content and root development) to provide a basis for the design of a site-specific drainage system. Across six poorly drained sites (1.3 ha to 2.6 ha in size) in south-west Ireland a VDA-based design was compared with (i) an ideal design (utilising soil physical measurements to elucidate soil hydraulic parameters) and (ii) a standard design (0.8 m deep drains at a 15 m spacing) by model estimate of water table control and rainfall recharge/drain discharge capacity. The VDA method, unlike standard design equivalents, provided a good approximation of an ideal (from measured hydrological properties) design and prescribed an equivalent land drainage system in the field. Mean modelled rainfall recharge/drain discharge capacity for the VDA (13.3 mm/day) and ideal (12.0 mm/day) designs were significantly higher (P < 0.001, s.e. 1.42 mm/day) than for the standard designs (0.5 mm/day), when assuming a design minimum water table depth of 0.45 m.