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Improving the auditability of soil carbon


Soil systems are recognised as a significant terrestrial sink of carbon. The reliable assessment and monitoring of soil carbon stocks is of key importance for soil conservation and in mitigation strategies for increased atmospheric carbon. However currently there is no reliable and efficient scheme for monitoring and accounting for soil carbon storage. This proposal will develop a methodology for auditing the soil carbon at a farm scale using a combination of spatial probability sampling and improved measurement techniques. This will enable Australian farmers to be involved in the carbon economy and will expedite sustainable soil management practices.


Professor Alex McBratney.

Research location

Sydney Institute of Agriculture

Program type



One of the biggest problems of assigning carbon credits in soil is the expense of verification as we are dealing with the inherent variability of soil in the landscape. The amount of carbon stored in the soil per unit of land area is highly variable and depends on annual inputs, soil type and the degradation rate of the soil C. Current methods for measuring, mapping, and quantifying soil carbon within an area are expensive and inefficient. Furthermore, it is still not established how we can monitor changes in soil carbon efficiently and effectively with sufficient statistical confidence. A scheme that recognizes the whole farm as a system that can store carbon is crucial to the agricultural industry, particularly in the carbon economy.
The primary aim of this project is to develop methods for vastly improving the auditability of soil carbon, by specifically:

  • Designing a protocol for auditing soil C sequestration.
  • Designing an effective sampling system for monitoring the content and changes of C in the soil within farms.
  • Investigating various methods for cost-effective analysis of soil C content, and possibly devising a new carbon measurement method.

Additional information

The project will involve considerable field and laboratory work. 

HDR Inherent Requirements 

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 577

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