Spatial and Temporal Changes in Soil Organic Carbon Assessment using an Integrated Geostatistical and Compositional Data Analysis Approach

Jennifer McKinley, Raimon Tolosana-Delgado, Antoinette Keaney, Alastair Ruffell, Peter Atkinson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The Irish and UK governments, along with other countries, have made a commitment to limit the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by reducing emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. This can be achieved (in part) through increasing the sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere including monitoring the amount stored in vegetation and soils. A large proportion of soil carbon is held within peat due to the relatively high carbon density of peat and organic-rich soils. This is particularly important for a country such as Ireland, where some 16% of the land surface is covered by peat. For Northern Ireland, it has been estimated that the total amount of carbon stored in vegetation is 4.4Mt compared to 386Mt stored within peat and soils. As a result it has become increasingly important to measure and monitor changes in stores of carbon in soils. The conservation and restoration of peat covered areas, although ongoing for many years, has become increasingly important. This is summed up in current EU policy outlined by the European Commission (2012) which seeks to assess the relative contributions of the different inputs and outputs of organic carbon and organic matter to and from soil. Results are presented from the EU-funded Tellus Border Soil Carbon Project (2011 to 2013) which aimed to improve current estimates of carbon in soil and peat across Northern Ireland and the bordering counties of the Republic of Ireland.
Historical reports and previous surveys provide baseline data. To monitor change in peat depth and soil organic carbon, these historical data are integrated with more recently acquired airborne geophysical (radiometric) data and ground-based geochemical data generated by two surveys, the Tellus Project (2004-2007: covering Northern Ireland) and the EU-funded Tellus Border project (2011-2013) covering the six bordering counties of the Republic of Ireland, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. The concept being applied is that saturated organic-rich soil and peat attenuate gamma-radiation from underlying soils and rocks. This research uses the degree of spatial correlation (coregionalization) between peat depth, soil organic carbon (SOC) and the attenuation of the radiometric signal to update a limited sampling regime of ground-based measurements with remotely acquired data. To comply with the compositional nature of the SOC data (perturbations of loss on ignition [LOI] data), a compositional data analysis approach is investigated. Contemporaneous ground-based measurements allow corroboration for the updated mapped outputs. This provides a methodology that can be used to improve estimates of soil carbon with minimal impact to sensitive habitats (like peat bogs), but with maximum output of data and knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeostatistics for Environmental Applications
EditorsNicolas Jeannee, Thomas Romary
Place of PublicationParis
PublisherPresses de MINES
Number of pages2
ISBN (Print)9782356711366
Publication statusPublished - 07 Jul 2014
EventGeoEnv 2014 - France, Paris, France
Duration: 07 Jul 201411 Jul 2014

Publication series

NameCollection Sciences de la terre et de l'environment
PublisherPresses de MINES


ConferenceGeoEnv 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial and Temporal Changes in Soil Organic Carbon Assessment using an Integrated Geostatistical and Compositional Data Analysis Approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this