Italian Research Supporting Climate Reporting

Two main lines are significant to improve estimations of GHG emissions from agriculture. A first line is related to collection of information on methods of agricultural production. For instance, agricultural statistics related to housing and storage facilities used by farmers and modality of land spreading are relevant information required by the inventory. Currently, the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), with the support of ISPRA, incorporated these specific queries in the 6th Agricultural Census of 2010. Therefore, in the future, information on animal production methods will be obtained. A second line encompasses the collection and incorporation of country specific parameters as a function of national research studies. The GHG inventory already uses different Italian emission factors (i.e., rice cultivation emission factors). However, information on the national emission factor for N2O emissions for agricultural soils is still needed.

In accordance with the COP/MOP Decisions, the IPCC Good Practice Guidance on LULUCF, and every relevant IPCC guidelines, the National Registry for Carbon sinks is the instrument to estimate GHG sources and sinks in forest land and related land-use changes. In 2009, a technical group, formed by experts from different institutions (ISPRA; Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea; Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forest Policies), set up the methodological plan for the necessary activities to implement the registry, and defined the relative funds. Some of these activities which should be completed by 2010 are expected to supply useful data to update and improve present estimations. Activities planned in the framework of the National Registry for Forest Carbon Sinks should also provide data to improve estimate of carbon sequestration due to Afforestation/Reforestation activities (with a special focus on soil organic matter content), and should allow to refine the estimates for forest land category. For the 2011 report submission, data and methodologies used for the inventory under the Convention were employed to estimate emissions and removals for activities related to Articles 3.3 and 3.4.

In recent years, different national research studies have focused on carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, highlighting the relationship between agricultural management practices and soil organic matter content. In fact, soil organic matter content represents a critical issue for Italy due to the small amount of soil surveys conducted since 1990, and their extreme fragmentation. Concerning forest land, results of the third phase of the National Forest Inventory (INFC) based on measurements of soil organic matter content will enable a more accurate analysis of the relationship between biomass carbon and carbon content in litter and soil, thus providing an improvement of national and regional estimates.

However, the issue is still open for soil organic matter content related to other land uses, particularly for cropland and grassland. Recent studies have reported that soil organic carbon was reduced in many areas, while an increase in atmospheric CO2 has been concomitantly detected. This apparently shows that past changes in land use history and management practices were the main drivers for carbon emissions from soil rather than high temperatures and rainfall changes resulting from climate change (Fantappie et al. 2010). Further investigations are needed to develop a solid methodology to assess carbon stock changes in soil pool and provide a robust database over the national territory with precise records of soil organic matter content vis-a-vis of land use and management practices.

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