The response of soils to disturbance by erosion is one of the great uncertainties in predicting greenhouse gas fluxes from soils to the atmosphere and hence future earth system dynamics. This is largely due to a lack of data in “remote” areas, such as tropical Africa, but also due to an inadequate transfer of knowledge from smaller to larger scales. In particular, it is unclear how C dynamics differ in the Tropics compared to the temperate climate zones, from which most of our mechanistic process understanding on C cycling is derived. It is important to fill this knowledge gap since tropical ecosystems provide services with global importance, such as C storage in plants and soils, soil fertility, plant productivity and ultimately food supply.
The main objective of the proposed TROPSOC project is to develop a mechanistic understanding of C sequestration and release in the soils of Tropical Africa, studied in the Eastern part of the Congo Basin. This region provides a unique combination of (i) geologically diverse parent material for soil formation and (ii) different levels of disturbance by human activity, taking place under a humid, tropical climate regime, where pristine forests are converted into agricultural land at high rates.