Management opportunities for soil carbon sequestration following agricultural land abandonment

Stephen Bell*, Carles Barriocanal, César Terrer, Antoni Rosell-Melé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The widespread historical and ongoing abandonment of agricultural lands worldwide presents important opportunities for promoting climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration. The default management outcome of abandonment is natural regeneration through ecological succession. However, several different management strategies and new land uses for abandoned agricultural lands have been recommended by the scientific community in recent years. This paper reviews the foremost proposed strategies and compares their soil carbon sequestration potentials. Six major categories have been proposed globally. Each proposal has positive and negative outcomes depending on site-specific factors and management objectives. Accordingly, no single strategy is ideal in all scenarios and a combination of strategies addresses multiple rural development goals concurrently. A combination of passive and active management techniques is the most effective approach for maximizing soil carbon sequestration over large geographic scales, while other strategies can be designed to also promote low-carbon land use practices and fossil fuel substitution. The implications of each proposal highlighted here demonstrates the positive role that abandoned agricultural lands can serve in climate change mitigation efforts, supporting policymakers tasked with planning the future of regions undergoing abandonment.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)104-111
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Agricultural land abandonment
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Land use change
  • Soil carbon sequestration


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